Call To Duty

Posted Nov 17, 2010

The Chiefs have seen reserves step up in 2010, but injury tallies are beginning to rise

Todd Haley rarely talks about individual injuries, but he does often touch on Kansas City’s overall lack of depth. Few NFL teams are able to absorb a brunt of injuries and the Chiefs aren’t an exception. While the bottom of Kansas City’s roster has been relatively stable compared to a year ago, it’s clear that the team’s margin for injury is paper thin.

Depth concerns are nothing new for the Kansas City Chiefs. Haley first addressed the lack of depth during training camp and has re-iterated that sentiment multiple times since. For the most part, however, the Chiefs reserves have responded well after being thrust into action. It’s actually been a pleasant surprise given the unproven status of the Chiefs many reserve players.

Players like Shaun Smith and Verran Tucker have particularly stood out when given a chance at playing increased roles due to injury.

When Tyson Jackson went down with a knee injury in the season opener, Smith was a relatively unknown commodity. Smith had seen success in the league before his arrival this offseason, but he hadn’t started an NFL contest since 2008 and he spent a portion of 2009 season with the UFL’s Las Vegas Locomotives.

Smith ended up making the most of his opportunity and is now a key contributor in the Chiefs defensive scheme, even after Jackson’s return.

From Tucker, the Chiefs are getting positive production as well. Four months ago, Tucker wasn’t even on the radar for those outside Kansas City’s personnel department. A rookie free agent out of California, Tucker looked more like a camp body when he arrived than he did anything else. Tucker had been released by Dallas before the Cowboys’ training camp even started and didn’t land with the Chiefs until after the start of training camp in St. Joseph.

Tucker fought the uphill battle and ended up making enough plays in practice to earn a spot on the practice squad. He eventually earned a promotion to the 53-man roster when Kansas City’s receiving core became thin. Still, Tucker was a special teams promotion more than anything else, but he has now found a way to weave into the receiving rotation after making some big-time catches the past two weeks.

There are other players who have stepped up in a pinch this season as well.

 Rookie Jon Asamoah performed at a high level in a spot start at right guard for an injured Ryan Lilja and then did some nice things against Denver on the left side in place of Brian Waters. Terrance Copper has also done a nice job in stepping up his offensive role while Dexter McCluster has been out of action.

Those are some of the success stories and, as a result of them, the Chiefs have been able to manage a handful of injury situations. Although Kansas City’s reserve players have generally responded to the call of duty, the injury tally is starting now to rise and the Chiefs are beginning to charter into dangerous territory.

For teams with depth concerns, one or two injuries are usually bearable; even if they occur to key players. It’s when the quantity grows that injuries become a real issue. For the first time this season, it looks as if Kansas City will enter preparations for Arizona with a number of injury concerns.

Fresh off a practice squad promotion, Ricky Price played nearly 50 snaps last Sunday in Denver. Those are a significant number of snaps for any player to play, but it’s a boatload for a player who joined the 53-man roster roughly 24 hours before kickoff.

Price saw the most snaps of his career to date because of an injury-depleted secondary. Kendrick Lewis (hamstring) and Jon McGraw (knee/head) were both inactive with injuries on Sunday and Reshard Langford hasn’t been active since suffering an ankle injury well over a month ago. While Price didn’t start, he played starter snaps.

Any of the three safeties could return to action this weekend, but there’s always the chance that they’re just not ready to return. Throw McCluster in the same boat as well. Add in Brian Waters and Tony Moeaki leaving Sunday’s game with injuries and the Chiefs have other positions to monitor as they prepare game plans for the week.

Moeaki suffered a nasty hit from LB Joe Mays while covering an onside kick and appeared loopy while getting off the ground. During his Monday press conference, Haley wouldn’t confirm whether or not Moeaki suffered a concussion, but Moeaki’s post-hit reaction was definitely unsettling and he didn’t return to action.

Missing Moeaki would not only affect Kansas City in the passing game, but it was also force personnel changes to the Chiefs’ heavy sets consisting of three tight ends. Leonard Pope and Jake O’Connell are the only other tight ends on Kansas City’s roster.

While Asamoah has proved to be an emerging option off the bench, missing Waters would further stretch a Chiefs offensive that enters most games on the low end of the numbers game. An inactive Waters would leave Rudy Niswanger backing up three interior offensive line positions on Sunday and tackle Barry Richardson as the next option.

“We went into (Sunday) with eight (offensive linemen) just because we’re beat up a little bit but we’ve gone into a bunch of these games with seven guys,” Haley said. “That’s a risky proposition.”

We’ll learn more about each injury situation as the week progresses, but it’s safe to say that the Chiefs injury numbers are at seasonal highs. The depth of Kansas City’s roster could be tested this week more than it has all season.

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