Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Defensive Ends – 4 – Allen Bailey*, Mike DeVito*, Jaye Howard, Mike Catapano
Defensive line should be a position of strength for the Chiefs headed into the 2015 season. If Mike DeVito and Mike Catapano can come back from their injuries in 2014 the will bolster both passing defense and the rush defense. Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard look to come back from strong seasons in 2014 and provide the ability to eat up blocks and get after the passer as well. DeVito has stated that he wouldn’t be surprised if the entire Chiefs defensive line made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and while I don’t share his optimism for that I do think the defensive line is going to cause a lot of problems for opposing offenses in 2015.
Nose Tackles – 2 – Dontari Poe*, Rakeem Nunez-Roches
Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Poe is coming off two straight years as a Pro Bowler and the Chiefs exercised his fifth-year option earlier this offseason. While Poe’s production is next to impossible to replace on the field the Chiefs have to find a player to be able to get Poe some rest throughout the season. Poe played close to 75% of the snaps last year but that number needs to drop closer to 65% if not lower in 2015. The Chiefs are looking for a backup for Poe and drafted Rakeem Nunez-Roches to step in and allow Poe more rest. If Nunez-Roches can play at a high enough level to give Poe a break the Chiefs could have a very scary defensive line.
Outside Linebackers – 4 – Justin Houston*, Tamba Hali*, Dee Ford, Josh Martin
With Houston signing his massive new contract two weeks ago the Chiefs locked up one of the cornerstones of their franchise. Pairing Houston with Hali the Chiefs maintain the division’s best pass rushing duo. Ford should have a chance to see more playing time this year as he and Hali will switch in and out and could see the field together with all three of the tops Chiefs rushers on the field at once. Josh Martin rounds out the Chiefs outside linebacker crew and provides another rusher that the Chiefs could employ on third and long situations.
Inside Linebackers – 5 – Derrick Johnson*, Josh Mauga*, Ramik Wilson, DJ Alexander, James Michael Johnson
When Derrick Johnson went down to injury in the first game of the 2014 season any chance of the Chiefs having even a semi-decent run defense went down with him. DJ is headed into 2015 going into the last year of his contract and will be highly motivated to get an extension at year-end. Mauga stepped into the starting role after DJ went down to injury and struggled throughout the season. The Chiefs saw enough to bring him back on a three-year, $8 million dollar contract which means he is likely the starter next to Johnson when the season begins. Both Ramik Wilson and DJ Alexander were drafted in 2015 and both offer different types of players at ILB. James Michael Johnson sticks to the 53-man roster headed into a contract year for him due to his speed and special teams play.
Nov 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; (Editors note: Caption correction) Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) pulls in a reception past Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines (23) in the third quarter at Arrowhead Stadium. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 29-16. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Cornerbacks – 5 – Marcus Peters*, Phillip Gaines*, Steven Nelson, Jamell Fleming, Marcus Cooper
With the suspension of Sean Smith for the first three games of the season Marcus Peters and Phillip Gaines look to start week one. The Chiefs have now spent three draft picks in two years on cornerbacks and look to have a stable of young talent at the position. Steven Nelson could be the first corner off the bench at the nickel corner position and will move back to the fourth corner on the team when Smith’s suspension is over. Fleming stepped in last season and played well when given the chance. I think Fleming and Cooper could both make the final 53 but Cooper could be released once Smith’s suspension is over.
Safeties – 5 – Ron Parker*, Husain Abdullah*, Tyvon Branch, Sanders Commings, Kelcie McCray
Until we are given definitive information on Eric Berry’s condition I think it’s better to assume he won’t be playing in 2015. Ron Parker signed a five-year extension during the offseason and Abdullah is headed into the final year of his two-year deal with the Chiefs. KC brought in Tyvon Branch from Oakland who when healthy was able to play very solid in coverage and run support. McCray is mostly a special teamer who could be replaced by Daniel Sorensen. The unknown at the position is Sanders Commings who has yet to play many meaningful snaps in his career after ending up on IR in 2013 and 2014. The Chiefs had high hopes for Commings which is why I think he sticks around but the question will always be can he stay healthy.
Next: Special Teams and the Practice Squad