KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The result of Friday night's preseason opener will be soon forgotten by the Kansas City Chiefs, so the performances of their players will be the lasting memories from the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium.
Players can win jobs or lose them, depending on how they fare individually against the 49ers and in the three remaining exhibition games. Less dramatic but still meaningful, players can win or lose a starting job or earn or forfeit playing time depending on what they put on video for coach Andy Reid and his staff to see.
"I'm really interested in seeing everybody play," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "It's the one chance to get out there, after you have gone against yourself as much as we have now, when you get to that game and when you get a chance to see guys play.
"You get to see them with the swings that happen in games. That is really what it is all about is how you deal with these swings and can you get your focus right back in? Can you let that play go, good or bad, and get right (back) into it (and) can we get this thing back on track and get in position to win the game? We have a lot of young guys, so I think it will be exciting to see them and I am looking forward to it."
With that said, the Chiefs are particularly eager to see some players in a truly competitive situation more than others. Here are five the Chiefs will scrutinize closely:
QB Patrick Mahomes II: The rookie's future doesn't depend on how he does against the 49ers. He's not going to beat out Alex Smith for the starting job or lose a roster spot no matter what he does. But the Chiefs are heavily invested in him after trading three draft picks, including next year's first-rounder, for the opportunity to draft him. So there's going to be more than a little curiosity about how he fares against the live competition the 49ers will provide.
Mahomes will follow Smith and Tyler Bray in the quarterback rotation, so he might not get into the game until the third quarter. The Chiefs aren't expecting heroics from Mahomes, at least not right away. They do want to see him operate the offense efficiently, including calling the plays properly and getting the Chiefs out of the huddle in a timely manner.
"Whatever I have to do to keep the chains moving," Mahomes said of his goals against the 49ers. "Be efficient and don't turn the ball over. I think that would be success for me, not necessarily throwing touchdowns. If we get down there and run the ball in, that is a great drive for me."
Not everything has been perfect for Mahomes at training camp. He had a three-interception practice session recently. But those types of days are typical for young quarterbacks. In his case, Mahomes has more than balanced that by making several impressive throws over two weeks of practice.
"Any time you come into a new system like these guys that come into camp right now, it is real challenging because you are learning one thing and we are still installing and still addressing other facets of the defense as we go along," Sutton said. "It is not like you just get this and say 'I got it' and then there are other new things.
"I think he has done a really good job. We have used him in a couple different positions. I think he is showing us that he will be a good football player."
Pierre-Louis could wind up starting at inside linebacker, next to Derrick Johnson. The Chiefs are looking for an upgrade at that spot, which is one reason they traded an elite player on special teams (D.J. Alexander) to get Pierre-Louis.
LB Ukeme Eligwe: Another inside linebacker, the rookie is advanced beyond what is reasonable to expect at this point from a fifth-round draft pick. The Chiefs have given him some work with the starters. Special-teams coordinator Dave Toub at one point said he expected his units wouldn't have Eligwe for long because he would be playing on defense.
"I think he is going to be a really good player," Sutton said. “Since he’s been in here, he’s worked really hard at it, diligently. He studies hard. He loves to play. I think he has a physical presence in there. He studies. He knows the game. He is just going to get better and better. I think he has a bright future."
S Eric Murray: The Chiefs are deep at his position, with starters Eric Berry and Ron Parker and top backup Daniel Sorensen. Murray has been playing a lot with Berry sidelined with an ailing heel. Even when Berry returns, Murray could claim playing time in the nickel defense. He was a cornerback in college at Minnesota but converted by the Chiefs to safety.
Beyond that, the Chiefs are interested in seeing whether Murray could eventually be a productive starter. Berry and Sorensen recently signed long-term contracts but Parker will soon turn 30 and the Chiefs could save $5 million against their cap next year if they released him.
TE Ross Travis: The Chiefs were hopeful last season that the former college basketball player could be a prolific receiver for them when they went to their two- and three-tight-end formations. It didn't happen. Travis found the transition back to football, a sport he hadn't played since his freshman year of high school, to be difficult.
The Chiefs are thinking a developmental year will help Travis be able to do what he couldn't last season. Though he's made plenty of catches at camp, a game will be a better gauge. The 6-foot-7 Travis could be a receiving threat in the red zone, an area where the Chiefs struggled to pass the ball last season.