Advertisement

NFL camp openings: Kansas City Chiefs players to meet new team executives

By
The Sports Xchange
Head coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs are operating under new management. Photo by Kelvin Ma/ UPI
Head coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs are operating under new management. Photo by Kelvin Ma/ UPI | License Photo

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- When the entire Kansas City Chiefs team gathered for the first time Thursday, the first task was to settle down and get comfortable.

First the players will meet new general Brett Veach. The 39-year-old former co-director of player personnel takes the reins from John Dorsey, who was fired June 22 less than an hour after the team announced a new contract extension for head coach Andy Reid.

Advertisement

The team also announced other changes to the personnel department. At the top of the list was naming Mike Borgonzi as the director of player personnel, which the team described as a promotion, although it appears to be a modification as much as anything. Borgonzi and Veach were co-directors of player personnel before Veach was promoted to general manager, so he should be up to speed on things related to his new title.

The Chiefs also hired Michael Davis as a personnel executive and David Hinson as an area scout. Davis previously worked for the Eagles and Jets while Hinson worked for both those teams as well as the Browns, Saints and Bills.

Advertisement
RELATED Cincinnati Bengals CB Adam Jones won't appeal suspension

Players and coaches will also seek a comfort level with linebacker Tamba Hali, who used social media to rant about wanting more playing time, which was minimal in the playoffs last season. Many thought he was going to hold out of training camp. Then on Tuesday he went on Facebook Live and said he will show up on time.

"I'm all in," Hali said. "All the guys at the Chiefs understand that I'm one of those guys who loves to compete, and I will continue to compete at a high level. ... I don't feel like I'm done. I just want to know where we're going."

So, while that may be settled, the right cornerback job opposite All-Pro Marcus Peters is not.

RELATED San Francsico 49ers rookie Reuben Foster cleared for camp

Last season, veteran corner Phillip Gaines struggled in his recovery from a torn ACL sustained in September 2015, and the Chiefs tested a variety of young defensive backs before journeyman Terrance Mitchell stabilized the position late in the season.

Both Gaines and Mitchell return in a battle for the starting role. Nickel back Steven Nelson joins the pair for the team's most competitive battle for a starting spot.

Advertisement

The Chiefs leaned on Nelson mostly in the slot last season and showed a willingness in offseason workouts to use the third-year pass defender as the right corner in their traditional 3-4 look. Nelson then moves back to the slot when Mitchell or Gaines enters at right corner.

RELATED NFL: Baltimore Ravens OL John Urschel retires

Mitchell enters camp with a slight edge over Gaines. The 26-year-old Gaines served as an observer at the end of offseason practices, hampered again by his balky knee.

THE FACTS:

TRAINING CAMP: Missouri Western State University; St. Joseph, Mo.

COACH: Andy Reid

5th season with Chiefs

44-24 overall; 1-3 postseason

19th season as NFL head coach

184-126-1 overall; 11-12 postseason

THE BREAKDOWN

2016 finish: T-1st AFC West (12-4)

STATISTICS

TOTAL OFFENSE: 343.0 (20th)

RUSHING: 109.3 (15th)

PASSING: 233.8 (19th)

TOTAL DEFENSE: 368.5 (24th)

RUSHING: 121.1 (26th)

PASSING: 247.4 (18th)

2017 PRESEASON SCHEDULE

All times Central

Aug. 11, SAN FRANCISCO (Fri.), 8:00

Aug. 19, at Cincinnati (Sat.), 6:00

Aug. 25, at Seattle (Fri.), 7:00

Aug. 31, TENNESSEE (Thu.), 7:30

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Alex Smith. Backups - Tyler Bray, Patrick Mahomes, Joel Stave.

Make no mistake, the 2017 Chiefs belong to Smith. The future belongs to first-round draft pick Mahomes, however. The team needs Smith and backup Bray ready for the season's Thursday night opener at New England, but prepping Mahomes to take the reins sooner the later remains the next priority. It remains difficult to paint a scenario where Mahomes gets significant playing time this season barring injury or a total team collapse. A year ago the Chiefs stood ready to enter the season with Bray as the backup but picked up free agent Nick Foles during training camp. It seems unlikely the Chiefs do the same this year with Mahomes on board and needing practice reps.

Advertisement

RUNNING BACKS: Starter - Spencer Ware, FB Anthony Sherman. Backups - Charcandrick West, Kareem Hunt, C.J. Spiller, Devine Redding.

One of the underrated positions battle for the Chiefs is at running back. Ware enters camp as the incumbent starter, but third-round draft pick Hunt impressed during offseason practices and expects to get playing time, perhaps as a third-down back who can run as well as catch out of the backfield. West provides an experienced hand at backup, but Spiller stands out as the wild card. The 29-year-old veteran has not had a full healthy season since 2013. If Spiller can regain his old form, he could provide a powerful punch in the team's run game, which ranked 15th in the league a year ago.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Travis Kelce. Backups - Demetrius Harris, Gavin Escobar, Ross Travis, Orson Charles, Emanuel Byrd.

Kelce posted his breakout season in 2016, catching 85 passes for 1,125 yards. The Chiefs need more of the same from the 27-year-old All-Pro, who is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. The team added free agent Escobar from Dallas as insurance and backup. Escobar along with the athletic 6-foot-7 Harris could provide a dangerous trio for head coach Andy Reid, who loves three-tight end sets. Travis hold an edge over Charles and Byrd for the fourth slot entering camp.

Advertisement

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Chris Conley, Tyreek Hill, Albert Wilson. Backups - De'Anthony Thomas, Demarcus Robinson, Seantavius Jones, Jehu Chesson, Alonzo Moore, Gehrig Dieter, Marcus Kemp, Tevin Jones, Tony Stevens.

The Chiefs need Conley and Hill to thrive in the absence of departed veteran Jeremy Maclin. The battle for backup roles could be intense with 2016 fourth-round pick Robinson and journeyman Jones impressing in offseason workouts. Fourth-round pick Chesson expects to make the roster, which means veterans Wilson and Thomas facing competition for the final roster spot.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Eric Fisher, LG Zach Fulton, C Mitch Morse, RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, RT Mitchell Schwartz. Backups - LG Parker Ehinger, T Jah Reid, T Bryan Witzmann, G Mike Person, G Jordan Devey, G Joseph Cheek, G Damien Mama, T Josh James, G Andrew Tiller, T Donald Hawkins, T Isaiah Battle.

The biggest question mark for the Chiefs entering camp focuses on the right knee of Ehinger. The left guard sustained a torn ACL in week eight last season against Indianapolis and missed all of the team's offseason workouts. Fulton steps into the left guard role until Ehinger returns, which removes the team's most versatile lineman from the bench. Reid holds the lead for the swing tackle role, with veterans Witzmann, Person and Devey competing for any vacancy that arises. Among undrafted rookies in camp, the mountainous guard Mama stands out. Mama caught the eye of Andy Reid during offseason practices, and could be a sleeper to make the roster.

Advertisement

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - DLE Allen Bailey, NT Bennie Logan, DRE Chris Jones. Backups - DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DE Jarvis Jenkins, DT Cam Thomas, DT Montori Hughes, DE David King, DE Ricky Ali'fua.

Logan steps into the hole left by free agent Dontari Poe, and the team hopes Logan can shore up the team's leaky run defense. Bailey returns from a season-ending injury a year ago, but most of the defensive line's hopes rest on Jones. The second-year defensive end shined as a rookie, and a slimmer Jones hopes to prove more elusive in the pass rush and tracking down the rush. Second-round draft pick Kpassagnon expects to make an impact in a limited role as a rookie. Nunez-Roches showed signs of breaking through last season, improving his pass rush skills while remaining a strong run defender. Veterans Thomas and Hughes expect to compete as Logan's primary backup.

LINEBACKERS: Starters - LOLB Justin Houston, WILB Derrick Johnson, SILB Ramik Wilson, ROLB Dee Ford. Backups - OLB Tamba Hali, ILB Justin March-Lillard, OLB Frank Zombo, ILB D.J. Alexander, ILB Ukeme Eligwe, ILB Josh Mauga, OLB Dadi Nicolas, OLB Marcus Rush, ILB Terrance Smith, OLB Earl Okine, OLB Reshard Cliett.

Advertisement

A healthy linebacker corps may be all that stands between the Chiefs and an elite defensive unit in 2017. The position group suffered numerous setbacks last season, with Houston, Johnson and Ford all missing playing time. Injuries to March-Lillard and Mauga also limited the team's depth. Houston, Ford and Hali provide a ferocious pass rush when all three are healthy. Johnson looks ready to return from a ruptured Achilles tendon last December, and the team needs his veteran presence. Wilson and March-Lillard expect to compete for the starting role alongside Johnson, but the return of Mauga on a free-agent contract intrigues. Mauga appeared the leader at SILB at camp a year ago until hip injury ended his season. Alexander remains one of the league's best special teams players, and fifth-round pick Eligwe offers big upside for the future.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Marcus Peters, RCB Steven Nelson, FS Ron Parker, SS Eric Berry. Backups - SS Daniel Sorensen, CB Terrance Mitchell, CB Phillip Gaines, S Eric Murray, DB Leon McQuay. CB Kenneth Acker, CB D.J. White, CB De'Vante Bausby, S Jordan Sterns, S Steven Terrell, CB Ashton Lampkin, CB J.R. Nelson, CB Keith Baxter, S Trevon Hartfield.

Advertisement

Berry and Peters lead a ball-hawking Chiefs secondary that ranked tops in the league in taking away the football last season. Finding a reliable running mate for Peters at right corner is the only weakness in the defensive backfield. Steven Nelson showed a knack for playing the slot last season, and could see more time at right corner. Mitchell shined down the stretch as a late-season roster addition, and hopes to prove his strong finish was not a fluke. Sorensen provides hard-hitting punch off the bench and on special teams. Gaines, in the final year of his rookie contract, hopes to show he's fully recovered from a knee injury that hampered throughout last season.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Cairo Santos, P Dustin Colquitt, LS James Winchester, KOR Tyreek Hill, PR Tyreek Hill.

The Chiefs special teams unit led by coordinator Dave Toub ranks among the best in the league in all phases. Hill proved an impact player in the return game as a rookie, returning three kicks for touchdowns and leading the league with 13.3 yards per touch. The Chiefs will search for a reliable backup for Hill during training camp and preseason, hoping to limit Hill's special teams play as his offensive contributions rise. Santos connected on 89 percent of his field goal tries a year ago, and Colquitt gives the Chiefs ability to flip the field and pin opponents inside the 20-yard-line with regularity.

Advertisement

Latest Headlines