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2010 Position Previews: Inside Linebacker

Posted Jul 22, 2010

The competition for starting roles in this position group should be fierce

Back for more: Jovan Belcher, David Herron, Derrick Johnson, Corey Mays, Demorrio Williams

Welcome to KC: Cory Greenwood (rookie free agent)

Departures: Weston Dacus, Justin Rogers

2009 Starts: Mays (13); Williams (13); Belcher (3); Johnson (3)

Career Games Played: Williams (96); Johnson (74); Mays (48); Herron (26); Belcher (16); Greenwood (0)

Preview: Judging by the way that the Chiefs handled their personnel rotations during OTAs and mini-camp, there isn’t a more wide-open position group on the roster. Reps with the first-team defense were divided equally between last year’s four main contributors – Williams, Mays, Johnson and Belcher – and the off-season concluded without any clear cut positional winners.

As a result, the camp competition at inside linebacker will create plenty of fanfare and even more speculation.

A year ago, three-down contributors weren’t the norm for this position group. Belcher and Johnson were regulated primarily to nickel/third-down duties, while Mays and Williams handled the majority of repetitions in base packages. Throughout the spring, Kansas City’s defensive coaches seemed to keep the pairings from 2009 together, but each grouping receiving plenty of reps with first-team units.

The competition for starting positions between Mays, Williams, Johnson and Belcher should be fierce.

Herron and Greenwood both figure to compete for duties on the coverage units. A mid-season pickup in 2009, Herron stepped into 10 games last season but only logged one defensive snap. Greenwood was the third overall pick in the 2010 Canadian Football League, but put plans on hold in his home country for a crack at the NFL. He could also be a dark horse in the long-snapping game.

Quotable: The following player or coach quotes occurred this off-season, relative to the position group.

Todd Haley expects Belcher to take the next step in 2010…

“Jovan is one of these guys that is a first-year or second-year player that there wasn’t a lot known about him by anybody, an undrafted free agent and you’re really excited when a guy like that comes in and is able to contribute the way he did in a first year. Now that’s behind him. That feel-good story is over and Jovan has taken another step, no different than all those guys we’re talking about – those second-year, third-year guys that have to develop. He falls in that pack, and it’s a big pack, and I mean that and I’ve said it to him. That was a nice story but we won four games and that’s not what our expectations are and those guys have to develop and he’s one of them."

Johnson has his eyes set on starting; expects to make a push at training camp…

“When we get to training camp, that’s when they separate the men from the boys and if you stay healthy in training camp, with my ability I think that I can do great things for this defense and yes, I can start."

Last year’s tackle leader (Williams) knows has taken notice of the increased competition in the position group…

“There is a lot of competition. Every day you have to come to work and be prepared. My main thing is to do all that I can do and take care of the things that I can control.”

Number Crunch: The Chiefs carried five inside linebackers on the Opening Day roster in 2009 – Monty Beisel, Belcher, Johnson, *Mays and *Williams

*indicates opening day starter

Up Next: Outside Linebackers

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