With just under three weeks to go until the Kansas City Chiefs kick off training camp in St. Joseph, Missouri. The buzz in Kansas City has been a steady rumble in the distance since the moment their Chiefs were bested in one of the most dramatic AFC Championship games of this decade. Patrick Mahomes has quickly made what is oft referred to as a “fly-over state” into the spot where must-see football is played, something only a 23-year old MVP Quarterback could manage. As training camp grows nearer it is the perfect time to review some of the position battles that will help decide who will make the final 53-man roster.
Last season Cam Erving was the starter at left guard and performed decently, while showing room for growth. He had a few games missed and was replaced by Jeff Allen, who was nothing to write home about. After Right Guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif went down for the season Andrew Wylie took over duties for him, playing admirably well in his first real NFL action. This season the battle will be between Wylie and Erving, with Wylie having an edge as Erving recovers from an offseason surgery. Wild card here would be second year man Kahlil McKenzie winning the job, but he appears to be more than a one year project.
The starter at Tight End is obviously Travis Kelce, but behind the perennial Pro-Bowler is nobody with experience on the depth chart. Kelce had an ankle scope and is recovering from this, allowing unknowns such as Blake Bell, David Wells and Deon Yelder to get significant time in camps to prove themselves. I look for KC to sign another tight end before the regular season begins.
The receivers are very top heavy with Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and Mecole Hardman almost guaranteed roster spots. The last two spots get murky with Byron Pringle, Gehrig Dieter, Marcus Kemp, Jamal Custis, and Cody Thompson all fighting to live another day in the NFL. Dieter, Kemp, and Pringle have proven Special Teams value, which helps their case significantly.
The major question in this room is how many do we keep? Is Jeremiah Attaouchu going to play the Leo spot or be a linebacker? Behind starters Frank Clark and Alex Okafor the Chiefs have three underachieving former second round picks to rotate in Emmanuel Ogbah, Breeland Speaks, and Tanoh Kpassgnoh.
This is one of my favorite positions and battles to watch in 2019 for KC. Can Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland rebound with Steve Spagnuolo coordinating the defense? Darron Lee, Dorian O’Daniel, and Ben Niemann provide athletic young linebackers with promise and value in coverage. Any of those three could thrive if the rest of the front 7 performs to their potential. Damien Wilson, signed from the Cowboys, will likely start the year out and is a solid player- but ideally one of the young guys earns his job before the year is out.
Kendall Fuller is young and in a contract year, so I fully expect a career year (especially playing more zone) for the 24 year old. Breeshaud Breeland will likely be the #2 corner to start the year and is a marked improvement over Steven Nelson. Charvarious Ward flashed potential at times last year, but with a new coaching staff in town nothing is guaranteed. Tremon Smith will need to show a lot of improvement to make this roster, his saving grace might be special teams if not. Keith Reaser dominated in the AAF and returns to KC training camp for a second year- hoping to stick around on the roster this time around. Rookies Rashod Fenton and Mark Fields could be fighting for the last spot.
Safety is a logjam beyond Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill. Jordan Lucas, Amani Watts, Daniel Sorenson, and Harold Jones-Quarty will be competing for two spots, and with a new staff nothing is a given. The on-field leadership of Mathieu and the talent of Thornhill should make this one of the more improved positions of the year.