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Insider Blog: Stealth

Posted May 26, 2010

Four offensive players who aren't talked about every day that have an opportunity to fill important roles

Who will be the surprise player of 2010? Each and every year there’s always one. It probably all depends on how you choose to define “surprise.”

On a day where head coach Todd Haley and a number of other Chiefs are paying a visit to the military families at Whiteman Air Force Base, why not discuss some of the players who have slipped under the radar during these OTAs?

 *Note: Coverage of the Chiefs visit to Whiteman will be available later this afternoon

In 2009, the surprise performance of the year was obvious. RB Jamaal Charles came on late, racking up 968 rushing yards after November 14th. He excelled through each of the 10 starts he was given and capped of his season with the best single-game rushing performance in franchise history – a 259-yard day at Denver.

In 2008, the surprise of the season came on the defensive side of the football. It was there that an undrafted rookie made big plays and contributed to the team in a multitude of ways. DB Maurice Leggett would come out of nowhere to post two return TDs - a 27-yard INT return and a 67-yard fumble return – and take home Chiefs Rookie of the Year honors over the likes of big-name draft picks like Charles, Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Flowers and Branden Albert.

In each of the past two years, the surprise performance has clearly stood out. Other times, the surprise of the season has been less obvious. Take the year 2001 for example.

In 2001, Brian Waters was a little known commodity who was new to playing on the offensive line in general. He had just wrapped up a 2000 campaign that saw nine inactive statuses and a trip across the pond to NFL Europe in order to hone his skills as a future NFL center.

Waters was given an opportunity to start the 2001 opener at center in place of an injury Casey Wiegmann (which was the last time that Wiegmann has missed an NFL snap) and then went back to his role as a reserve offensive lineman and goal line fullback until November 25th. It was that day that Waters got the start at left guard in place of an injured Donald Willis and the rest was history. Four Pro Bowls and 131 starts later, Waters has been a fixture at the position ever since.

When it comes to discussing surprise players for 2010, the debate will wage on with no right or wrong answer. It all depends on how you choose to approach the topic. Whether or not Dexter McCluster touches the football more than 10 times a game could be your criteria. Maybe you would define surprise as Thomas Jones outrushing Jamaal Charles or Chris Chambers out-receiving Dwayne Bowe. By all mean, debate away.

To me, focusing on players who have slipped under the radar of everyday conversation, yet still have a chance to fill very important roles for the team qualify as surprise candidates. As you’ll see, some of these players logged starts with the team last year and some are rookies. Some weren’t even on the roster in 2009.

These are the players who won’t have lofty public expectations set upon them, but might just make a headline or two in 2010. Then again, some on the list may not even make the team.

Here are four guys on the offensive side of the football that you may have forgotten about, but have a chance to force you to remember their names. Later this week, we’ll look at four on the defensive side of the ball.

Jerheme Urban – The free agent pickup seems to have fallen under the radar ever since Kansas City selected OW (offensive weapon) Dexter McCluster with the 36th overall pick. But don’t be so quick to discount Urban, who the Chiefs brass still appear to be high on and who has been seeing considerable reps out of the slot with the first-team offense this spring.

McCluster and Urban are two completely different players and there’s no reason to pigeon hole either one of them as “the slot receiver.”

Tim Castille – It’s going to be hard for Castille to produce numbers that would qualify as “breakout stats,” particularly when Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles are expected to get the brunt of touches in the position group (and that’s prior to factoring in any carries that McCluster might receive). Still, Castille has showed up thus far during spring drills and continues to display exactly why the Chiefs picked him up at mid-season (2009) in the first place.

Often times referred to as a “tweener,” Castille (5-11, 238) is smaller than your typical fullback and bigger than your average tailback, but his versatility out of what’s typically viewed as a blocking position could turn out to be a nice secondary asset. Castille has already gotten loose on several occasions during OTAs via screen passes and quick hitters on plays that the defense has chosen to key attention on more prominent offensive threats.

Remember the TD catch that Castille had out of the backfield at Cincinnati last season? Those are the type of plays that could surprise a defense when Jones, McCluster or Charles are on the field. The guy has some overlooked athleticism, but with a backfield consisting of veterans backs like Charles, Jones, Kolby Smith, Jackie Battle, Mike Cox and 2009 draft pick Javarris Williams, the competition will be fierce for roster spots in the position group.

Tony MoeakiFirst things first, this guy needs to get on the field. He’s been held out of OTAs thus far with what head coach Todd Haley referred to as a minor setback. Moeaki’s likely chomping at the bit to get back on the field any day now and many who follow the team would like to see if he can parlay his impressive rookie camp showing with a solid OTA/mini-camp showing against his veteran counterparts.

The Chiefs felt strongly enough about Moeaki to trade up for him at the end of round three. On paper, he may have the most versatility and athletic talent in his position group. On the field, he hasn’t done a single thing yet. Let’s get this guy healthy and see how he reacts.

Ikechuku Ndukwe – There’s something to be said for offensive linemen who can play multiple positions. When it comes to dtermining gameday inactives, reserve big men almost always have to possess versatility. Nobody is a better example of being called upon to produce on demand, at the drop of a pin, than Wade Smith in 2009. As a result, Smith found himself a nice off-season free agency deal with the Houston Texans.

Many people tend to forget that Ndukwe started three games at right tackle last year before late preseason addition Ryan O’Callaghan was ready for action. By all accounts, Ndukwe did an admirable job for a spot starter. Many people also tend to forget that Ndukwe is one of the few players on the Chiefs roster who can swing from tackle to guard if need be. He’s definitely the only one with NFL game experience in doing so.

He may not ever be an everyday starter for the Chiefs, but Ndukwe has a chance to compete for a very vital gameday role. He’ll have competition though, namely from Colin Brown, Barry Richardson and likely a rookie free agent or two.

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