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Positions To Watch As Chiefs Prepare To Resume Football

Posted Jul 8, 2011

WR, T, OLB and NT among positions to watch

We’ve yet to see the complete cast list, but that doesn’t mean competition won’t exist once the NFL Lockout ends.

Free agent additions and undrafted rookies will be added to the mix alongside members of the 2010 Chiefs re-inking contracts for 2011. There will also be those who seek new a home. Others won’t have a choice.

When football returns, the transactions will be fast and furious. An entire off-season of work truncated into an action-packed few weeks of activity.

Roster battles will ensue. Some of which we can predict; others of which we have no clue.

At the moment, these are some of the positions worth watching as Kansas City’s roster heads toward a post-lockout NFL.

1.       Slot Receiver


How do the Chiefs plan to use Dexter McCluster in 2011? That’s the first question that must be answered when it comes to drawing up a depth chart at slot receiver.

Regardless of McCluster’s ratio of snaps in the backfield vs. those at wide receiver, there’s plenty of room to add another body for competition. Expect an addition to be made in free agency or undrafted free agency – or both.

The Chiefs had hoped Jerheme Urban would be their possession-type receiver last year, but a preseason hand injury proved otherwise. Verran Tucker came out of seemingly nowhere to make some big plays and Jeremy Horne is a burner, but both are probably cut out best for roles on the outside and so is Urban.

Big-bodied first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin will find his stride on the outside as well.

Kansas City’s roster should see plenty of jockeying for position across the wide receiver ranks as a whole, but predicting a rotation at slot is currently one of the biggest mysteries on the roster.

2.       Right Tackle


I’m a fan of Barry Richardson. In so many ways, the big man from Clemson followed the Chiefs 2010 off-season blueprint to a tee.

He was…

  • A third-year player the team needed to turn a corner
  • Cut in 2009, but fought his way back onto the roster
  • A player who seized an opportunity when it was given
  • A competitor and fighter whose off-season and in-season progress was measurable

Richardson was rewarded for his 2010 effort with a jolt of confidence after the Chiefs passed on adding a tackle in this year’s draft. With that said, don’t expect Richardson to enter training camp free of competition. That just isn’t how the Chiefs operate.

It would be an absolute shocker if a veteran tackle (or two) doesn’t join the Chiefs offensive line once the lockout lifts. In addition to Richardson, Branden Albert and converted defensive lineman Bobby Greenwood are the only two tackles under contract.

3.       Outside Linebacker


One side is set. The other is anything but.

Tamba Hali, the defending AFC sack leader, is the obvious choice to start at one of the two outside linebacker positions. The post opposite Hali is up for grabs.

The first decision comes with Mike Vrabel. To re-sign or not to re-sign? (Or maybe Vrabel already has different plans in place?)

Andy Studebaker was pushing Vrabel for playing time last season, but the respected veteran still played 2.5 defensive snaps for every 1.0 that Studebaker received. With or without Vrabel, rookie Justin Houston will be in the mix for playing time as well.

Houston spent his senior season in a near-identical system to Kansas City’s. In addition, Georgia operated under much of the same terminology as defensive coordinator Todd Grantham once worked for Romeo Crennel in Cleveland.

Aside from the starting position opposite Hali, the fight for the final roster slot in the position group is one worth watching as well.

Cameron Sheffield will be mounting a comeback from a season-ending neck injury and rookie Gabe Miller is now part of the puzzle as well. Add in Pierre Walters, who spent all of 2009 on Kansas City’s 53-man roster, and the numbers crunch only grows.

4.       Nose Tackle


The Chiefs will add a veteran in the middle. Whether that body is acquired outside the organization or by re-signing 2010 starter Ron Edwards remains to be seen. Either way, asking rookie Jerrell Powe or a developing Anthony Toribio to hold down the nose without any veteran support is probably too much to ask.

Another option would be to shift Glenn Dorsey inside on a part-time basis. Dorsey is the most versatile of the Chiefs defensive lineman and a shift inside would offer more opportunities for rookie Allen Bailey and other reserve players like Wallace Gilberry. Dorsey only played inside in sub-packages last season.

Where does fan-favorite Shaun Smith fit?

The numbers game has a potential to be tough and the club’s strategy at nose tackle could possibly be a determining factor in the decision to re-sign “Deep Freeze.” Of course, Smith originally opened training camp as a nose tackle last season.

5.       Fullback


There’s a lot of buzz surrounding seventh-round draft pick Shane Bannon. Often lost in the excitement of drafted players is that they’re not guaranteed to make a roster, particularly if they’re drafted in round seven.

The competition at fullback should be an exciting race to watch and the ability to play on special teams will definitely play a factor. Last year’s training camp battle between Mike Cox and Tim Castille continued into the regular season when the Chiefs surprised many fans by keeping both players after the final cut.

Fullback is always an interesting position. Some teams keep two. Some keep one. Some keep none.

6.       Backups at QB, S and CB


Reserve positions always determine the final makeup of a 53 man roster and there will be plenty of competition for backup posts across the entire roster. But situations at quarterback, safety and cornerback are the most noteworthy.

Starters are in place at all five positions, but their backups either involve impending free agents or a cast of young players looking to make an impact. Free agent decisions regarding Brodie Croyle and Jon McGraw will help clear the reserve picture at quarterback and safety, while the race for reserve roles at cornerback is anyone’s guess heading into camp.

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