The gold end zones, the old-school logo on the 50-yard line, the home opener!
It’s a big week in Kansas City as the Chiefs return to Arrowhead Stadium for their first home game of the year. On this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory, we talked about three things on offense and three things on defense to watch in Sunday’s game.
Who eats this week?
We’ve seen 100-plus receiving yards games from Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Travis Kelce this season. A holding penalty on a 72-yard touchdown last week kept rookie Mecole Hardman from making that list. Even with the loss of Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs present a deep catalog of players the Ravens will need to defend against.
Who comes out this week and leads the playmakers? Is it more spread out this week?
We’ll find out on Sunday.
Dealing with running back injuries
Damien Williams has been ruled out this week, and LeSean McCoy was only limited on Thursday in practice—not what you want heading into a physical game against a good football team. The Chiefs have Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams on the active roster at running back as well. One or both of them will have to play a role this week on offense. I know it’s sexy to pick Thompson to play a bigger role, but he can’t just cut in pass protection against a heavy blitzing team. I would expect they’ll find some ways to insert Thompson, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Darrel gets some run.
A big test for the offensive line
Eric Fisher is out this week as the task gets tougher against a good, aggressive front. It’s likely Cam Erving is stepping in at left tackle again. Erving was able to do enough in pass protection (although not pretty) and there should be concerns as to whether that success is sustainable. Erving and the rest of the Chiefs offensive line couldn’t get anything going in the run game against Oakland. It is a big task for this group, and the Chiefs need more out of them.
How can the Chiefs pressure Lamar Jackson?
Jackson has really grown as a passer this offseason, and the early returns are excellent. His threat to run is still very real, and it presents a unique challenge. The Chiefs will have to be careful about how they pressure Jackson. They’ll still need to be disciplined in their rush lanes to ensure they aren’t making space for Jackson to take off. Don’t be surprised if defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo decides to throw some unscouted looks in coverage on Jackson to force him to process a little longer.
Defending the vertical passing game
Rookie wide receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Miles Boykin present a significant challenge down the field in the passing game. Brown burst onto the scene against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1 with four catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns in limited snaps. The Chiefs don’t have cornerbacks that can stay with Brown and Boykin, so what the Chiefs do in coverage to help account for the speed will be worth watching.
Defending the read-option
The Ravens present such an interesting challenge for a defense. We’ve talked about Jackson’s ability to create with his legs when the play breaks down and how his speedy receivers present issues. The read-option in the run game is yet another thing to take care of. The Chiefs will have to play disciplined, and we could see them scrape exchange with a linebacker to account for the quarterback. That will force the Chiefs linebackers to play in space, which could be a factor in whether the Chiefs win or lose.
Arrowhead Pride Laboratory
We went into further detail on these storylines and listed players we’re looking forward to watching on the game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory.