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Insider Blog: Depth Chart? What Depth Chart?

Posted Jun 3, 2010

The Chiefs have been mixing and matching personnel during OTAs

Right now, the Chiefs aren’t concerned about depth charts. Fans are definitely interested in the latest and greatest about where players line up, but it’s not a priority at the moment for the coaching staff.

“This time of year the depth chart stuff is really not something I get caught up in front of,” head coach Todd Haley said. “We’re not caught up in it as a coaching staff – we’re moving guys around for a lot of different reasons.”

That message is making its way straight down to the players as the man at the center of nearly every depth chart related question, dating back to last August, understands Haley’s assessment and approach to depth charts during OTAs.

“The coaches told us that the depth chart is not a priority for them right now,” LB Derrick Johnson said. “When we get to training camp, that’s when they separate the men from the boys.”

Johnson, by the way, made “spring news” by working with the first-team defense during Tuesday’s OTA.

Another player who looks to be in a fight for depth chart jockeying this summer is veteran S Jon McGraw. He’s done a little bit of everything over his career in the NFL – literally.

In Kansas City alone, McGraw has taken snaps at each safety position, nickel corner, cornerback and even linebacker as injury situations have dictated. He’s also performed the role of starter, backup and special teams captain. The Chiefs, by the way, only account for three of McGraw’s eight seasons in the league. Settling into a versatile role is nothing new to him.

Thus far, McGraw has been taking the majority of first-team reps at safety alongside first round draft pick Eric Berry. Still, even though McGraw has a chance to parlay a career-high nine starts from 2009 into something more this year, he isn’t caught up in his position on the depth chart right now either.

“For me personally, it just comes down to a competition against myself and trying to be the best player that I can be,” McGraw said. “I don’t compare myself to other safeties because I’m a different player than a lot of other guys and they are too. I think the competition comes from just trying to be the best player you can be and at the end of the day the chips fall where they may.”

McGraw’s words are similar to that of Johnson’s - two veteran players who have both been through the grind and shown maturity in the process. The line of thinking that McGraw and Johnson bring with them concerning spring competition isn’t something that always comes natural. For McGraw, it was a learning experience during his first few years in the league.

“When I came into the league, it was comparing yourself to the next guy and doing the numbers game like, ‘do I have a chance to make this roster,’” McGraw explained. “I think that can become a distraction and at the end of the day, if you want to make it in this league, you have to focus on being the best player that you can be.”

For the younger players, particularly in the Chiefs defensive backfield where 15 DBs are competing for roster spots, the temptation to become distracted with roster calculations has a recipe to be there. At the same time, more inexperienced players such as S Reshard Langford and CB Jackie Bates have taken practice reps with the first-team defense. A rotation of players seems to help keep the younger players focused and driven to compete.

“From that perspective, things are wide open,” McGraw said. “I think that if the young guys see that and there’s not this, ‘well this guy has been here, so he has a right to this position.’ It’s wide open and the young guys understand that.”

While slotting the depth chart isn’t carrying a sense of urgency at Arrowhead this spring, performance still counts and competition is still very important. It’s actually heating up by the day.

“I think it looks like there is real good competition at all the spots (in the secondary) and to me, that gives that particular position a chance to give us a lot of help if that competition continue,” Haley said. “It continues to make all of the guys get better, then it looks like we’ve got a lot of good looking athletes back there that are working hard and learning and seem to understand what we want them to do and that could end up being a good thing for us.”

Just this week did the rookie class fully implement into the same everyday schedule as the veterans. There is roughly a two-week grind remaining before bags get packed and lockers start preparing for a transfer to St. Joseph for 2010 training camp. Sometime between now and then, six players are likely to be released in order to make room for the signings of draft picks.

NFL rules mandate that teams can carry a maximum of 80 players under contract to training camp. Right now the Chiefs roster 86 players, but Page and the seven 2010 draft picks are not under contract. Eventually that number will work its way down to a 53-man roster and eight-man practice squad.

FYI...if you've been searching for a Chiefs spring depth chart, you're not going to have much luck. Right now, such a public document doesn't exist and it likely won't until sometime this August. Teams aren't required to publish a depth chart until training camp, shortly before the preseason opener.

Another day of competition at Arrowhead heats up at 10:30 AM today with OTA #9.

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