KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs travel to Arizona for their second preseason game, which kicks off at 7 p.m.
This may be of the last glimpses of the Chiefs' starting offense and defense before the team locks in on its preparation for the regular-season opener Sept. 12 against the Cleveland Browns.
Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach and the front office will have to make five additional roster decisions by 3 p.m. on Tuesday before trimming the roster to 53 players by 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 31.
The game with the Cardinals provides a pivotal opportunity for players on the bubble to make a big impression and inch toward a roster.
With that in mind, here are some key things to keep an eye on tonight:
FS Juan Thornhill's snaps
Free safety Juan Thornhill has been working his way back from an ACL injury suffered in Week 17 of the Chiefs' Super Bowl winning 2019 season.
He appeared to lack a fluid change of direction and ability to burst out of those cuts for his previously exceptional range upon returning last season. Things improved later in 2020, but ACL injuries can take two full seasons before the player regains their previous form.
The amount of snaps Thornhill takes are a key indicator of how much more work is ahead of him to regain his form.
Impact on the edges
The Chiefs will get a great opportunity to see what defensive ends Mike Danna, Joshua Kaindoh, Taco Charlton, Tim Ward and Austin Edwards can do from a rotational standpoint.
The team needs to iron out who can fill in for Frank Clark during his injury and who can step in Chris Jones kicks inside at defensive tackle.
Danna and Ward shined in the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers. Their effectiveness will go a long way in determining this roster.
The final wide receivers
The battle between wide receivers Marcus Kemp and Daurice Fountain is going to be interesting down the stretch.
The receivers are likely fighting for one of the final roster spots and will need to shine during their special teams snaps.
The Chiefs is probably set with Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle, Mecole Hardman Jr., Demarcus Robinson and Cornell Powell as its top five, which makes Kemp and Fountain the most likely choices if the team elects to keep six wide receivers.
Both saw significant targets last week, a trend I don't anticipate changing this week.
Fortson pushing for the two spot
Tight end Jody Fortson has been pushing throughout camp for a roster spot and now might be looking to push for a more prominent role in the offense.
Fortson has shown the ability to make tough catches look routine. He has flashed impressive speed and acceleration for his size with the combination of a good build and enough athletic ability to be a prominent factor on special teams.
Fortson can lock in a roster spot with a strong final two games.
Linebackers Omari Cobb and Riley Cole both showed serious promise in the preseason opener.
The Cardinals game is a chance for each of them to make a push to leapfrog Ben Niemann for a fourth and maybe even fifth spot on the active roster.
Worst case, both can be strong developmental players. But if they can show a good grasp of their roles, great athletic ability and shine on special teams, it will be tough to keep them off the roster in place of the slower Niemann
Final safety spots
The last roster battle to highlight is for the fourth and maybe fifth safety positions, which also will likely have an impact on the number of cornerbacks the team keeps.
Will Parks, Armani Watts and Devon Key are pushing for a place on the 53-man roster.
Parks brings good athletic ability and a physical presence as a blitzer, while Watts has the experience and is a prominent special teams performer.
Key will need to regroup from his performance last week, when he struggled with a double move that led to a touchdown. He will need to show more discipline and ability to handle the speed of the game.
The stage is set for any and all of those players to shine and earn their an opportunity during the 2021 season.
Don't forget to check out our next "4th and 1" podcast, where Tod Palmer and I will breakdown the players' performances later this weekend.
The “4th & 1” podcast is the twice-weekly, Chiefs-centric podcast from 41 Action News, the official broadcast “Home of the Chiefs.” Co-hosts Nick Jacobs and Tod Palmer analyze and breakdown the Chiefs’ opponent and performance for pre- and post-game episodes — available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or your preferred podcast platform — each week during the season.