The regular season is less than three weeks away, so time is of the essence for the Kansas City Chiefs.
During training camp, all eyes have been on rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes. And though that will continue through the preseason, Game 2 offers Chiefs fans a bit of a different look compared to their opener. The Chiefs’ starters will play the first half of Saturday’s 6 p.m. game at Cincinnati and that means quarterback Alex Smith likely will make more than a cameo.
Against San Francisco last week, Smith played eight snaps and helped lead the team to a touchdown on its opening drive. But after that, Smith’s day was done. He then watched Mahomes guide the team to its only other touchdown — something Chiefs fans no doubt want to see more of.
So therein lies the dilemma for Smith as he tries to balance competing with mentoring his own replacement. Not an easy task, but Smith is used to it by now.
“I have been doing it for 13 years,” Smith said. “For me, it is just kind of being myself. I am going out there and playing and trying to take advantage of my reps and myself for the season as best I can. No different than any of the other young guys that have been here before. It is no different.
“I am going to be myself. Certainly I have been through a lot so if there is something I can help with or I see, I am not going to hesitate.”
At 33, Smith is having maybe his best camp with the Chiefs. He’s been accurate, has thrown deep more and has had success — evidenced by his 32-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill on the first play of the game last week against the 49ers.
The arrival of Mahomes, who will turn 22 on Sept. 17, has forced Smith to be more aggressive. And that’s not a bad thing, nor is the competition among the quarterbacks themselves. In fact, Smith said the quality of quarterbacks on the roster is one reason he’s had such a strong camp.
“I feel like it has been a big part of it,” Smith said. “A lot of quality out of the quarterback room. You know, good competition for all of us. Everybody kind of feeds off of each other even in the quarterback room. Who is going to be the guy to go out there and make the play and make the throw?”
In the coming years, that QB will be Mahomes, the player the Chiefs thought highly enough of to move up 17 spots and select 10th overall in the NFL Draft. After a solid debut last week Mahomes was elevated by coach Andy Reid to No. 2 on the depth chart behind Smith.
“I learn a ton from Alex,” Mahomes said. “Just having him in front of me, you can’t even explain how much he teaches me on the sidelines. He is always helping me out. And at the same time, we are always pushing each other to be better every single day.”
Last week against the 49ers, Smith was 4 for 6 for 48 yards against the starters while Mahomes was 7 for 9 for 49 yards against backups. Now Smith will get an extended amount of playing time against the Bengals before he hands things over to Mahomes in the third quarter and Tyler Bray in the fourth.
The Chiefs on Wednesday wrapped up camp in St. Joseph, Mo., so after the game they will return home for the final two weeks of preseason practice.
“I think this camp has been great,” Smith said. “I feel like every day we have taken a stab, we have gotten better. We have gotten something out of it. Guys have brought it.”
CHIEFS AT BENGALS
When/Where: 6 p.m. Saturday, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
Records: Chiefs 0-1, Bengals 1-0
TV/Radio: WIBW (13.1), KDVV-FM (100.3)
Line: Kansas City by 2½