The Chiefs, well at least some of them, have finally arrived in St. Joseph for training camp. Quarterbacks, rookies, and injured players departed for Missouri Western State University on Sunday. The rest of the team will join them for the first official day of camp on Thursday. The next few weeks will decide the 53 players who will occupy the team’s roster, but it’s this annual trek that also separates the men from the boys on the depth chart. There are a few position battles you may want to keep an eye on should you decide to visit the Mo-West campus for training camp.
TE3: Sean McGrath or Demetrius Harris?
There’s been some thought that the Chiefs could possibly carry four tight ends on the active roster once the regular season opens. For today’s article, let’s assume they’ll only keep three (my prediction). Anthony Fasano is the only established player in the group and therefore the de facto No. 1 tight end. Travis Kelce’s arguably the most athletic of the four, but he’s returning from an injury that sidelined him for most of the 2013 season. Given his draft position and the excitement surrounding Kelce, we’ll call him the No. 2 at the position. The final spot comes down to either Sean McGrath or Demetrius Harris.
McGrath quickly became a fan favorite when Fasano and Kelce were down last season. His larger-than-life beard and blue-collar, lunch pail brand of football were charming to the Kingdom. In fairness to him, he was serviceable in their stead, but I don’t think he’s an answer there. He’s probably a backup tight end at best in this league. I won’t undersell the importance of having a player like McGrath on the roster though. He can perform in a pinch.
Harris is a former basketball player turned tight end with the kind of God-given ability that brings players like Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, and Antonio Gates to mind. He has a rare blend of athleticism and size that makes NFL scouts salivate. He’s also a raw prospect who may never put it all together in such a way that it translates to the playing field. Having a player with that kind of talent has to be intriguing to both Andy Reid and John Dorsey, but it’s tough to know if they’ll prefer a project to round out the tight ends or more security (in McGrath) if the injury bugs aren’t through with Fasano and Kelce.
Starting RG: Rishaw Johnson or Zach Fulton?
It’s been a while since a Chiefs rookie has had a legitimate shot at being the outright, Day 1 starter at his position. Kansas City’s sixth-round pick out of Tennessee has that opportunity. Zach Fulton was selected by the team with the 193rd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Let’s be honest, there isn’t much in front of Fulton. He has only second-year man Rishaw Johnson and the much-maligned Jeff Linkenbach to go through. Rokevious Watkins is facing a four-game suspension after violating the league’s substance abuse policy (for the second time). Without ever playing a snap in the NFL, Fulton’s already one of the favorites to land the job.
Rishaw Johnson looked to be the prohibitive favorite after both Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah departed for the NFC, but that was before Fulton was drafted. I still think it’s his job to lose. He’s had a full year in Reid’s offensive system. He even logged his first NFL start in a Week 17 game with the San Diego Chargers (a game our own Ladner Morse analyzed and thought he played well in). I have to think consistency will be the key to claiming the role, but Johnson’s not so established that Fulton can’t catch him.
I suspect this battle will stretch beyond what happens in St. Joe. Preseason game tape will also have a lot to say about who becomes the new starter at right guard. For now, I think it’s safely in Johnson’s hands, but this will definitely be one of the biggest position battles to take place over the next three weeks. The play at right guard has been a strength for the team in recent years and what the Chiefs get from either Johnson or Fulton in 2014 could have a real impact on the growth or shrinkage of Reid’s offense.
Follow the jump to see the last battle I suggest fans watch during training camp.