How does this year’s Kansas City Chiefs roster compare with 2017?
By Drew Brooks
2017 linebackers: Justin Houston, Dee Ford, Frank Zombo, Reggie Ragland, Ukeme Eligwe, Derrick Johnson, Ramik Wilson, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Terrance Smith
2018 linebackers: Justin Houston, Dee Ford, Breeland Speaks, Reggie Ragland, Dorian O’Daniel, Ben Niemann, Anthony Hitchens, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Terrance Smith
The Chiefs have a lot of new faces at the linebacker position replacing Frank Zombo, Ukeme Eligwe, Derrick Johnson, Ramik Wilson, and Kevin Pierre-Louis. Breeland Speaks, Dorian O’Daniel, Ben Niemann, Anthony Hitchens, and Tanoh Kpassagnon are all new to this year’s 53-man roster. The Chiefs drafted Breeland Speaks in the second-round and Dorian O’Daniel in the third-round of this year’s draft.
Breeland Speaks was originally a defensive lineman out of Mississippi, but the Chiefs transitioned him to play linebacker. In his last season with Mississippi, he played in 11 games and made 25 unassisted tackles, 36 assisted tackles, with 8 TFLs and 7 sacks. Speaks brings a lot of talent to the Chiefs defensive line and will be looking to earn a lot of playing time this season and perhaps even a starting position opposite to Justin Houston.
Dorian O’Daniel is a linebacker out of Clemson who put up great numbers in his last year. He played in 14 games, making 51 unassisted tackles, 37 assisted tackles, 11.5 TFLs, 5 sacks, and 2 interceptions for 2 touchdowns. Taken in the third-round, many think O’Daniel was a steal for the Chiefs. O’Daniel brings a ton of talent to the Chiefs and will be fighting to start for the Chiefs in a loaded linebacker core.
The Chiefs opted to not resign all-time leading tackler Derrick Johnson this year, leaving a hole in the middle of the field. To fill that hole, the Chiefs signed Anthony Hitchens and undrafted free agent Ben Niemann. Anthony Hitchens spent four seasons with the Cowboys prior to being signed by the Chiefs. In his last season, he started 12 games and amassed 55 unassisted tackles and 29 assisted tackles. Hitchens is a nice fill in for Derrick Johnson, but a lot of fans have been focusing more on Ben Niemann.
Ben Niemann was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Chiefs following the draft. Niemann, who last played in Iowa, chose to wear #56 for the Chiefs. A bold move, but with Niemann’s performance so far he earned himself a spot on the final 53-man roster. A lot of Chiefs fans will be watching Niemann and hoping he develops into the next Derrick Johnson.
The Chiefs also see Tanoh Kpassagnon make the roster again, though, this year he starts as a linebacker as opposed to a defensive lineman. Last season Kpassagnon played in 16 games with 1 start and notched 7 unassisted tackles, 6 assisted tackles, and 2 sacks. In his second season as a Kansas City Chief, Kpassagnon will be trying to earn a starting position, battling with a loaded linebacker core that includes Dee Ford, Breeland Speaks, and Dorian O’Daniel.
Last, but certainly not least, to round out the Chiefs’ defense we’ll look at the secondary.