Chiefs 53-man Roster: 11 Pre-Camp things I think

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 6: Justin Houston
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 6: Justin Houston /

Once it actually opens, things can change quickly in training camp. A few speedbumps have shown up before camp is officially launched. Veterans report tomorrow.

With Eric Berry not reporting and Justin Houston unable to participate in camp, things are off to an iffy start for the Chiefs. While neither of these situations comes as much of a surprise, it changes the dynamic of a team that should be hitting its stride in the fourth season under Head Coach Andy Reid.

By year four, this roster should be developed to a point that the team can take a step forward and compete for an AFC Championship game or better. For now, the speed bumps for key veterans could slow that next step. On the upside, with veterans out, younger players have the chance to take advantage of the time and reps to develop and strengthen the team.

This week on the Check With Me podcast, we looked at what the to expect for the 53-man roster, the issues to start camp and what could be effected beyond this season. Here’s this week’s show.

Where I see the 53

Looking at the way Reid and Dorsey have built their rosters in Kansas City over the last 3 seasons, there are some trends we can see. They have been very consistent on position groups like the wide receivers, inside linebackers and defensive line. You can expect those positions’ numbers to be solid.

There are positions that vary, like the offensive line group and the defensive back mixture. I’ve gone through the scenarios and adjusted for player development. Here’s a look at what I expect for the 50 non-specialist roster positions and my thoughts before the pads go on.

11 Things I Think

1. The Defense is at risk. Missing a pro-bowl player due to injury it one thing, but missing two is another story, particularly when one is a healthy absence. Juston Houston and Eric Berry are the vocal leaders of the KC Defense, but Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson will serve as the foundation for this camp. Count on these two veterans to keep moral and motivation high. They will have to push young players to step up in order for this defense to remain at the top of the NFL.

2. Given Jamaal Charles’ rehab progress to this point, it was a mild surprise to see him go to PUP list to start camp. It’s not anything I’m cringing over. It feels more precautionary to me than concerning. During camp, players can return from the PUP list at any time. I expect Charles to see some carries in preseason game #3 at the latest.

3. With Justin Houston sidelined, Dee Ford is more important than ever for Bob Sutton’s crew. As we talked about last week, Ford has to make the leap to an above-average OLB in this preseason. I like his attitude. I like his natural ability. With him getting all the 1st reps in camp, I expect him to make that step forward. He has to. There is a shortage of talent behind him.

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4. I am optimistic about this offensive line. I think experience, chemistry and continuity go a long way in this league. I like the athleticism Parker Ehinger brings to the left guard spot. I expect him to be the starter come week one. My concern is that he had better have gotten stronger since the combine especially with games against the Jets, Steelers, Panthers and Broncos. With the other 4 positions locked down, I expect only eight o-linemen on the 53-man.

5. When it comes to the cornerbacks, I am getting more comfortable with this group. Yes they are extremely young. DROY Marcus Peters has more career starts (18) than all the other cornerbacks combined. The most interesting player in this group is rookie KeiVarae Russel. With Gaines starting opposite Peters, I am looking for Russel to be good enough to play outside when the team goes to three cornerbacks and let Gaines move inside to create a strong nickel trio. Steven Nelson has played well in since the regular season and would give the team a very solid dime cornerback.

SAN DIEGO, CA – OCTOBER 19: Phillip Gaines
SAN DIEGO, CA – OCTOBER 19: Phillip Gaines /

6. I want to see how working with Jeremy Maclin has helped Chris Conley and Albert Wilson. Both are explosive athletes that need refinement. Training with Maclin this summer, they ran routes, worked on footwork and studied film. How much did they gain? I expect Conley to make the bigger jump in 2016. Conley has the intelligence to soak up information from Maclin and apply it in his second season. I look for him to grow to be the ‘X’ counterpart to Maclin.

7. Chris Jones had better be in shape. Last year’s prime backup Jaye Howard is now a starter. Dontari Poe is in a contract year. The team needs their top draft pick to get heavily into the d-line rotation. Jones had conditioning and effort issues in college, yet seems to be taking NFL Training Camp lightly, telling the media “I don’t think it can get any harder than Mississippi State”. If the staff has to grind him into shape, both he and the team will be behind the curve week one.

8. Andy Reid keeps 6 wide receivers on 53-man, year after year. The 4th receiver spot is the question in my mind. I’d think Rod Streater was a good fit there, but that seems less likely as time goes on. I am pulling for DeMarcus Robinson. He ran routes from all three positions in a West Coast Offense variant at Florida and is an explosive athlete. I think he can get the team catches/yards as the #4 WR.

SAN DIEGO, CA – NOVEMBER 22: Jamell Fleming
SAN DIEGO, CA – NOVEMBER 22: Jamell Fleming /

9. Jamell Fleming and Eric Murray are going to play at safety during camp. With Berry out, these two are the guys I think will be the best fit as the 3rd (temporary 2nd) safety. Steve Brown will get reps early. I feel like these two will overtake Brown during camp. Murray especially intrigues me for being able to come down and cover slot receivers. That versatility opens options for Bob Sutton.

10. Kansas City has to take advantage and get out to an early lead in the AFC West. The Broncos have to battle the Panthers right off the bat in the Super Bowl rematch. Oakland has improved quite a bit on paper, but I think it will be close with the Saints. I expect the Chiefs to beat up the Chargers and lead the AFC West after week one.

11. Anthony Sherman needs to be one of the 4 running backs on the final 53-man roster. He catches passes, grinds out yards and makes ST tackles. All good things. The prospect of running Spencer Ware behind him in the red zone is something that makes me happy. I need to be happy. Sherman needs to be a Chief.

What do you think Addicts? Throw your takeaways in the comments