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NFL Preseason Preview - Kansas City (0-0) at New Orleans (0-0)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Does Andy Reid still have it?

Friday's matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints marks the beginning of a new era for Reid as he embarks on game action for the first time with the Chiefs.

Reid joined Kansas City of course after 14 largely successful seasons as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach where he compiled a 130-93-1 regular season record and took the team to five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl.

Reid's dying days in the City of Brotherly Love were ugly, however, yet he still has the reputation as something of a franchise-builder and takes over a team in Kansas City far more talented than its 2-14 2012 record would indicate.

Reid has handed the keys to the Chiefs' offense over to former 49ers signal caller Alex Smith and chose the ceiling over the floor by taking offensive tackle Eric Fisher and not the presumptive favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel.

Fisher's advantage in athleticism was enough to convince Reid and his hand- picked general manager, John Dorsey, that the former CMU star was the best option. Fisher will start his career at right tackle while Branden Albert handles the left side for at least one more season.

On defense, Kansas City really upgraded the secondary by bringing in veteran cornerbacks Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson.

"We're going to get the starters work, and then we'll start off gradually and increase their time as the games go on," Reid said when talking about his preseason plan. "And at the same time, everybody should have an opportunity to play in that first game.

"I think teams are very vanilla in the preseason. I think that they just want to get a clear evaluation of their players. Then during the season, it's a whole different ballgame, so during the season you get the full package."

With Bountygate safely in the rear-view mirror for NOLA and Sean Payton back on the sidelines, expect the Saints offense to be back to its high-powered self with a few tweaks.

"I think this time of the year people are excited because the season is getting ready to start and there is some uniqueness to it because our whole team is intact, including the coaching staff," Payton said.

The Saints really needed to improve the edges entrusted to protect Drew Brees, however. Right tackle Zach Strief wasn't all that impressive in 2012 and needs to improve while Jermon Bushrod left in free agency to Chicago, leaving left tackle to Charles Brown or perhaps talented but raw rookie Terron Armstead. Payton has said that the team's left tackle spot keeps him up at night.

New Orleans also failed to add reliable depth at receiver behind Marques Colston and Lance Moore.

"We're going to have a chance to watch a lot of young guys get a lot of work," Payton said when asked about his wide receivers. "I think that's pretty obvious, so we'll see how they do. We have enough numbers here and they're going to get plenty of work even with the first and second group."

The Saints defense, meanwhile, was a mess in '12, finishing at the bottom of the league in a number of defensive categories so Payton fired coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and hired Rob Ryan to make the switch to 3-4 scheme, meaning the team must find fits for that philosophy whether it means a true nose tackle, a five-technique end, edge pass rushers or man-to-man coverage guys in the secondary.

The transition wasn't made any easier when promising free agent linebacker Victor Butler tore his ACL during organized team activities.

"The goal this year is to find the right 53," Payton said. "That's the No. 1 thing and us as coaches need to have the proper teaching installation that allows guys to be up to speed, that we can evaluate and that we can make the best decisions concerning the roster."

This will be the ninth time that the Saints have faced the Chiefs during the preseason, but the first since 2007 when the Saints won 30-7. NOLA leads the preseason series 5-4.

"I have the opportunity to go out and show the New Orleans fans what I have," Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis, a free agent acquisition from Pittsburgh said. "I also have an opportunity to play against my younger cousin (Kendrick Lewis of the Chiefs), so I have to show him the ropes. I'll be looking for him and 'm pretty sure he'll be looking for me."

08/08 15:42:35 ET


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