Nov 16, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher (72) watches play on the sidelines during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
1. Four Way Tie: Left Tackle, Center, Right Guard, Right Tackle (Eric Fisher, Eric Kush, Mitch Morse, Zach Fulton, Jeff Allen, Donald Stephenson)
Could I have just said offensive line or perhaps more accurately offensive line besides Ben Grubbs? Yes, but I wanted to stress just how many spots on the line are in need of a player stepping up. Not every position is in the same boat, but all of them are equally in need of someone stepping up and proving they are a quality NFL starter.
Let’s start with left tackle. Eric Fisher was the first overall pick two years ago and thus far has had an unspectacular start to his NFL career. While it’s too early to call Fisher a bust he is running out of excuses. His first year he was adjusting to the NFL and battled injuries. Last season it was that he wasn’t able to bulk up the previous offseason because he was recovering from those injuries. This year there is no excuse for Fisher. He’s in his third season, he has a great veteran lining up next to him in Ben Grubbs, and he had a full offseason to build the strength needed for the position. This is the year for Fisher to step up and prove he is a starting NFL left tackle. If he doesn’t it will be very hard to not attach the label of “bust” to the name Eric Fisher.
Next up let’s go to the center position where the Chiefs were forced to let Rodney Hudson (their best lineman) walk in free agency when the Oakland Raiders drastically overpaid for him. Now the center position will be filled by one of two possible players, neither of which have been starters in the NFL. Those two being Eric Kush and rookie second round pick Mitch Morse.
Kush definitely has the early advantage as he is entering his third season in the offensive system. With the center position being in charge of making reads and calls for the entire offensive line it is the most important line position when it comes to having a full grasp of the offense. That could likely mean that Kush will be given the first shot at proving he can handle the job. If Kush gets most to all of the first string snaps early in camp and does well the job will likely be his. If he does struggle then it will open the door for Morse.
Mitch Morse was a surprise pick for most Chiefs fans when KC selected him in the second round despite being a local product and playing a position of need. Most “draft experts” had Morse as more of a fourth round prospect than a second, but “draft experts” aren’t the ones actually making the picks and the Chiefs clearly saw something they liked in Morse. While Kush does have a clear advantage in knowing the offense there is a recent track record of rookie centers starting and playing well in the NFL. The center position is definitely a position to watch in camp.
Next up is the right guard position. There are three viable candidates to start here. Last season’s starter, Zach Fulton returns and while there is definitely room for improvement, he did fare pretty well considering he was a rookie sixth round pick. Former starting left guard Jeff Allen is another candidate here. While I was never impressed with his play at guard and feel he may be better suited to play tackle his starting experience does make him a contender. I would just stress that if he does win the position he (like Fulton) would also need to step up his play to do so. The final option here could be Mitch Morse if both he and Eric Kush look good in camp. Andy Reid has always stated that the best five guys would start and if Kush and Morse look like they are both in the top five it could mean that Morse starts out his NFL career as KC’s right guard.
Finally there is right tackle. I see this as a battle between the previously mentioned Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson. I know there are a lot of you on the Derek Sherrod bandwagon, but I’m not a believer. To me he’s much more of a Jared Gaither than a Ryan Harris. He’s a lottery ticket. It would be nice if he hit, but actually putting any hopes in it happening is only setting yourself up for disappointment. The right tackle spot should be Donald Stephenson’s to lose. He was slated to be the starter last season before he was suspended for four games and then lost the job to veteran Ryan Harris. The Chiefs didn’t bring Harris back so it would appear that they believe they have a starter on the roster. Stephenson has the prototypical size for the position at 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds (compared to Allen’s 6-foot-4, 306 pounds). I’ve previously written that I wanted a “bully” at the right tackle who can overpower defenders in the run game and while that might not perfectly describe Stephenson it definitely isn’t Jeff Allen who was often overpowered when playing inside. So while Stephenson is my preferred choice if Allen is clearly better in pass protection in camp the Chiefs will likely give him the nod.
While I called it a four way tie for the position most in need of a player stepping up if forced to make a choice of just one, right tackle would be my pick. It is definitely one of the top battles that I’ll be watching when I make the trek up to St. Joe to watch training camp.
So there you have it Addicts, my five positions most in need of a player stepping up for 2015. What spots are you hoping improve when training camp gets under way? Is your list a lot like mine or are there some positions you think I missed out on? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!