The Kansas City Chiefs will play their first preseason game of the 2014-15 season on Thursday, and there are plenty of questions that will start to be answered when the Cincinnati Bengals come to Arrowhead.
Outside of the Chiefs' four preseason contests, position battles and roster decisions will be made in the team's annual training camp, held on the campus of Missouri Western University in St. Joseph.
Among the most prevalent of matters currently facing Kansas City is which of the offensive linemen on the roster will make the team, and furthermore, become starters for the Chiefs in those spots.
Last season's starter at left tackle, Brandon Alberts, signed with the Miami Dolphins during the offseason. That has allowed second-year player Eric Fisher, the 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick, to move back to the spot where he made a name for himself in the collegiate ranks. The professional game has been a tough transition for Fisher, however. He has struggled both with consistency and staying healthy. That's just one of the many questions from the offensive line, but answers are starting to emerge.
Ryan McKee, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Southern Mississippi University, has been earning the attention of the Kansas City coaching staff. McKee has played a lot of snaps with the first-team offense at right tackle so far in camp.
"He's a very smart kid. Not the biggest but he gets it. He understands leverage and what we're looking for in the position. He gets the offense," Chiefs' head coach Andy Reid said.
Reid was mum about whether that would mean a start for McKee on Thursday, however. One player who is suited to be among the judges of the progress that the offensive line is making is the Chiefs' first-round pick in this year's draft, linebacker Dee Ford.
"We're out there everyday trying to make each other better. I'm coming in here learning because the game is so fast," Ford commented.
One of the people that Ford is learning from is veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson, who addressed the other looming question for Kansas City right now, the secondary.
Gone is cornerback Brandon Flowers, who was released by the team. Reserves like Marcus Cooper and Sanders Commings have dealt with nagging injuries in camp. Safety Eric Berry has also been hurt.
"That's camp. Some guys are going to get banged up. I don't think it's anymore drastic this year than others," Johnson elaborated.
When asked how he managed to stay healthy during training camps throughout his career, Johnson gave a simple answer.
"I listen to my body. I rest when I need it," Johnson added.
The first round of roster cuts are due August 26, when all the league's teams have to be reduced to a maximum of 75 players. That means 17 players will be getting the axe by that date. Some of those players cut could be those currently battling for jobs on the offensive line and defensive backfield.
"It's a collective decision. [Chiefs' general manager John] Dorsey has 51% of the say. Sure, I want my assistant coaches to stand up for the guys they want and we'll take their feedback into consideration. In the end it's a collective decision," Reid stated.
In the passing-dominant brand of football that has emerged as dominant in the National Football League, being able to protect the quarterback and defend the opposition's receivers are vital. The Chiefs' efficiency at doing both are currently uncertain. Training camp will provide the answers to questions of who will be handling those duties for the Chiefs and how well they will perform.