Kansas City Chiefs: Four position battles to watch this summer


Phase Two of the NFL’s offseason program is officially underway in Kansas City. The next flash point along the Chiefs’ spring football trajectory is a three-day rookie minicamp beginning this weekend (Saturday, May 16). The depth chart will undergo a number of changes over the next four months. The organized team activities leading up to training camp will be instrumental in setting up a few interesting positional battles come late-July in St. Joseph. Today, I’d like to take a look at the four I find most compelling right now.

Between the 2015 NFL Draft and the open free agency period, the Chiefs’ front office made significant strides in adding talent to the team’s offseason roster. Several of those players will factor into the training camp equation as incumbents at their respective positions, fringe starters, or valuable depth. There are at least four starting roles completely up for grabs on the offensive side of the football (No. 2 wide receiver, center, right guard and right tackle). A few other jobs will be open, but this foursome of position groups should provide the highest level of intrigue as we move into the summer months.

Wide Receiver 2

The way I see it, there are five players vying for this job (Albert Wilson, Da’Rick Rogers, Chris Conley, Frankie Hammond, and Junior Hemingway). The front-runner here would appear to be the second-year man out of Georgia State (Wilson). He was the most productive of the Chiefs’ receivers who were on the 2014 roster. Wilson averaged an impressive 16.3 yards per catch and was highly productive in the fourth quarter of the regular season. Hammond and Hemingway also logged starts last season and they’re likely to get another audition once camp opens. Rogers and Conley are long shots as neither of them have time in head coach Andy Reid’s system (one that proves challenging to receivers being freshly introduced to it).

Starting center

After three notable offensive line losses at the outset of the 2014 league year, free agency dealt the Chiefs’ O-line another blow with the departure of center Rodney Hudson to the Oakland Raiders. Eric Kush was directly behind Hudson on the depth chart, but he’s got company in the race for the starting gig. A few weeks ago, Kansas City drafted former Missouri Tiger Mitch Morse with their second-round draft pick. On the one hand, Kush’s time in the offense should give him a shorter route to pay dirt, but he still only has one NFL start under his belt. If Morse can assimilate the playbook and the offseason coaching, he could close the gap and push for the job.

Starting right guard

As odd as it might sound, Morse could find himself in a competition at two different positions. Reid has always said, “the best five will play,” and we’ll see the line group round itself out between now and Week 1 of the regular season. This all depends on how much Eric Kush has progressed since late-December, but I suspect that either way the Chiefs will take a look at Morse at both center and guard. Joining him are veteran guard Paul Fanaika and last year’s starter Zach Fulton. I happen to think this will be the toughest position battle to predict. It’s probably Fulton’s job to lose, but Fanaika’s experience won’t be overlooked.

Starting right tackle

Donald Stephenson muddied the waters when he was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. When he returned to the team in late-September, he was ushered into Andy Reid’s doghouse and never left it. According to general manager John Dorsey, all appears to be forgiven and Stephenson will start the 2015 season with a clean slate:

"There’s some things that occurred last year, but it’s a clean slate. So what he has to do is set the little things into motion that professionals do in terms of obtaining that starting position. So what you do is take little steps, ultimately building toward bigger goals that you set for yourself. And I think you go in and challenge yourself on a daily basis. You go in and do the little things it takes to be truly professional — do not take this game for granted."

The oft-injured Derek Sherrod will get a chance to get his career back on track, but he’ll have to stay on the field for that to happen. Former starter at left guard Jeff Allen could find a new home on the right side of the offensive line, but he’ll have his hands full fighting off Stephenson for the role. He may be the inferior player, but he does have 28 NFL starts to his credit.

Do you agree that these four position groups will provide the most drama when training camp rolls around? Which players do you expect to claim starting jobs? Which position battles will you be keeping a close eye on between now and September? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.

Until next time, Addicts!