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August 10, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Steve Maneri (87) makes the catch as Arizona Cardinals linebacker Colin Parker (97) defends in the third quarter of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Do the Chiefs Really Need an Official Fullback?

Preseason games answer personnel questions, determining who truly belongs and who’s expendable, and identify areas to focus on. Last Friday against Arizona, the ACL club – as they’ve affectionately been dubbed – answered that it was ready to make plays. All four RBs looked good. You may disagree, but CB Jacques Reeves seemed to play well too – although he was thoroughly manhandled by Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd during a long run by William Powell. Speaking of Powell, while I’m not one to root for an opponent, I was happy to see the former Wildcat enjoy the success he did that game.

Going back to the Chiefs, one player that may have raised as many questions as answers was Steve Maneri. A 2010 graduate from Temple, Maneri was picked up by the Texans after going undrafted and converted from a tight end to offensive tackle, but failed to make the final roster. He then spent a year on the Patriots’ practice squad before being waived last fall. The Chiefs, upon hearing someone from New England was available, naturally claimed him off waivers less than 24 hours later because that’s what Kansas City does with anyone having spent time with the Patriots. After playing in six games last year (mostly short yardage personnel packages), he dropped 40 pounds over the offseason and debuted last week as a converted/reverted tight end. He went on to become one of the “surprise stars” of the game, hauling in three catches for 69 yards.

Assuming Maneri’s performance was more than a single, preseason game fluke, the question of whether the Chiefs need to maintain a full time fullback on the roster remains. With Le’Ron McClain gone, Shane Bannon has the inside track at the position. Bannon was a seventh round pick who performed well in pre-draft workouts and may be a promising prospect, but Kansas City simply doesn’t need Bannon or anyone else taking up a roster spot as the Chiefs fullback. I love a good list, so here’s five reasons why:

1. You undervalue Matt Cassell.
Yes, I’m making this my number one reason if for no other reason than getting in your craw, and I don’t care. The Chiefs will be a great running team, but will not be some bland “use the Power I to set up play action passes” team. You’re going to see some empty backfield spreads that stretch defenses, and Cassell will deliver the necessarily quick throws to be effective. You will also be treated to…

2. Two Tight End Sets. While Kevin Boss was a bit of an insurance acquisition in March while Moeaki was suffering through rehab, he’s not being paid $9 million over three years to sit on his duff on Sunday. With two tight ends, Bowe, and Baldwin on the field the ace formation could become a familiar sight this season. In this instance we will only need a single running back at a time. As a bonus, one of the running backs we can use is…

3. Peyton Hillis. He played fullback at Arkansas. Denver drafted and played him as a fullback. He can fill this void while still getting his yards and sliding out the of backfield to make beautiful touchdown catches (which he provided us with Friday night). Hillis is part of a loaded stable of running backs which suggests…

4. The 53rd spot is better used elsewhere. I’d rather keep an extra offensive tackle or possibly even defensive back than increasing our number of running backs. Preferably this would be a tackle, the position formerly played by…

5. Steve Maneri. Bringing this full circle, the Chiefs seem to have a player with soft hands who’s also capable of blocking. He’s versatile, and at 6-6 could make goal line sets all the more exciting. I confess to not knowing how adept he is at hindering rushing linebackers at this stage in his transformation, but everything I’ve read seems to indicate he’s much more comfortable in his current mobile body than in the 300 pound frame the Chiefs had him playing with.

None of this is to argue a team shouldn’t have a traditional fullback on their roster, and we fondly remember how important Tony Richardson was in helping Priest Holmes break records and the Chiefs make the playoffs. However, I’m quickly gaining confidence in this team’s ability to achieve success without an officially designated FB on the roster. Hell, I may not even miss McClain. And as Pioli continues to remake the Chiefs in his image of a team with multipurpose players rather than a collection of individuals, aren’t labels just arbitrary anyway?

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