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One Key to Making the Chiefs Roster

Posted Aug 7, 2014

As players fight for a spot on the final roster, positional flexibility is critical

Among the many things players are evaluated on at training camp, there’s perhaps none more important in determining certain roster spots than positional flexibility.

Obviously, this isn’t talking about positions like starting quarterback or running back. Those roles call for sole attention on the primary task at hand.

But when it comes down to the last few spots that many Chiefs hopefuls are competing for at camp, making the 53-man roster could be made easier if they are able to do multiple things.

This could simply include playing on some special teams units or even being a “four-core guy,” a player that contributes to all four (punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return).

It can also mean playing different spots within your positional group. Basically, it’s about finding ways to get on the field.

In speaking exclusively with Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton after practice, cornerback Ron Parker was used as an example of what they were able to do last year in moving him around because of his flexibility.

“Ron came into our sub-groupings and did a lot of different jobs,” Sutton said. “He was a blitzer, did a great job as a cover guy and we tried to find things he did really well and then we used him in those spots. So we kind of created a grouping for him.”

This year, Parker finds himself working on the outside at cornerback. He’s been working with the first-team defense for the majority of training camp. Being able to move around the defensive backfield remains an advantage for Parker.

Sutton spoke about finding things players do well and utilizing those skill sets.

“If you can do something that’s really good, we’re going to try to get you on the field to do it,” Sutton said. “You’re not just going to back up if somebody gets nicked up. Offenses do it all of the time, so I think on defense you have to be smart as well and say, ‘Hey, situations right,’ so we put this guy here and this guy there, boom, go. So we’re always looking at ways to alternate.”

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid also agrees that flexibility and the ability to play special teams is a factor in making the roster.

“It’s huge,” Reid said. “The more you can do, the more you can contribute on special teams [and] the more positions you play [and] play well, that helps you. We definitely look at that.”

One new face to the Chiefs this season who fits this “positional flexibility” idea well is former New York Jets inside linebacker Josh Mauga.

Mauga has worked at both the “Mike” and “Will” positions in both the “base” and “sub” defenses. He’s shown the ability to stay on the field in multiple situations that could arise during the game. Combine that with an ability to play special teams and Mauga is in a good spot because of his positional flexibility.

While speaking exclusively with Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, he mentioned how flexibility is important in evaluating a player like Mauga.

“I think there’s a high premium on that,” Dorsey said. “But it’s also the mental aspect of it too. Josh is very comfortable with this defense and he has been able to flip on both sides of it.”

Sutton agreed that Mauga’s versatility could help him moving forward.

“When you’re trying to put your travel team together,” Sutton explained. “That’s a huge plus because when you have a guy who can play multiple positions—let’s say you’re nicked up along the defensive line or defensive back and you need one more guy to take, he can really allow that decision to feel a little bit better.”

Echoing the ability to play on special teams, Dorsey said that it’s an area that will be key for Mauga during the preseason.

“Now what [Josh] has to do if he’s going to be a role player like that is distinguish himself on special teams,” Dorsey said. “Your core set of special teamers are going to be linebackers and so that will be something you watch for as the preseason games play their way out.”

Consequently, Mauga has the right mindset to take advantage of his abilities.

“Just try to be open and versatile,” Mauga said. “When coach Sutton needs me to go out there, I just try and take advantage of it. I told him I’d play any position as long as I get out on the field and that was my drive. I started my career on special teams. I love special teams. It can get you out there to make plays.”

It works the same way on the offensive side of the ball. Veteran offensive lineman Jeff Allen has worked at every spot along the offensive line except for center during training camp.

While Allen has been working predominantly at left guard, where he started last year, it’s something to note in case there needs to be any movement along the offensive line for any reason. He’s shown the ability to move around, which makes him that much more valuable.

On the offensive side of the ball, rookies Zach Fulton and De’Anthony Thomas have been working multiple positions at camp as well.

Fulton has spent time at center in addition to getting most of the recent first-team reps at right guard, while Thomas has been everywhere—working as a returner, running back and receiver.

With only so many roster spots available, the players who can do different things and provide depth at multiple positions are that much more valuable.

Positional flexibility is a key area to watch as the Chiefs move through their preseason games.

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