Insider Blog: 10 to Watch

Posted May 15, 2010

A list of 10 things to watch for as the Chiefs begin a month-long session of OTAs on Monday

Finally, footballs are about to fly at Arrowhead once more. Many of the NFL’s 32 teams have already begun their slate of organized team activities (OTAs) for 2010, but on Monday the Chiefs will join the party with their first practice session of the off-season.

Kansas City is currently scheduled to hit the field for 14 OTAs over the next month, highlighted by a three-day mini-camp June 11th-13th. The five practices scheduled over mini-camp weekend will bring Kansas City’s off-season practice count to a total of 21 sessions. The final day of OTAs is slated for Tuesday, June 14th.

Short and sweet, there are a lot of positional battles about to be had. This year’s set of OTAs are only a precursor to what promises to be a very competitive training camp. Here are 10 things that I’m going to be keeping my eye on during OTAs…

1) 15 Defensive Backs – Everyone seems to want to focus their efforts on what the addition of Eric Berry and Javier Arenas mean for players like Jarrad Page, DaJuan Morgan, Maurice Leggett, Brandon Carr, etc. When it comes to focusing on individual position battles in the defensive backfield, to pin any one player against another at this point would be jumping the gun. First things first, we have to figure out where these guys are going to line up.

Right now, the only player who is seemingly planted in his role from a year ago is Brandon Flowers. Past that, an argument can be made for up to 12 of the 15 players playing multiple positions in the defensive backfield. Charting where each one of them practices and what sub-packages Romeo Crennel is running this spring are the first steps in ironing out what the individual battles will be in camp.

2) The Tight Ends – If there was ever a position group that had true “open competition” from top to bottom, this would be it. Four players currently make up the tight end roster, with the oldest being just 26 years old (Leonard Pope). Each of the four seems to bring different strengths and weaknesses with them to the field and just how Todd Haley and Charlie Weis plan to utilize the tight end position in 2010 could go a long way in determining who makes the final cut.

Pope’s large frame can help tackles solidify the edge, Brad Cottam was really coming on late last season before his neck injury, Tony Moeaki is the new face who seemed to have an impressive rookie camp and Jake O’Connell has one year under his belt and remains a player who the Chiefs traded a pick to get in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. This should be a fun group to watch battle.

3) Jerheme Urban – This is a player who the Chiefs front office seems to be very high on. Most thought Urban would be the front-runner to secure the third wide receiver position up until draft day, where it’s now assumed that rookie Dexter McCluster would be the favorite for that role.

Not so fast.

McCluster and Urban are very different players, who could both conceivably man the third wide receiver position as game situations dictate. Kansas City was missing a true possession receiver last year and that’s one of the reasons you’d have to believe Urban was targeted this off-season. I’d go as far as saying that it’s risky to pigeon hole Urban into any reserve role at this time. It’s time to sit back and see what position (or positions) this guy runs after.

4) Dex – It’s no secret that second round pick Dexter McCluster will be all over the field in OTAs. He practiced with both the running backs and wide receivers during rookie camp and fielded both kickoffs and punts as well. He’ll likely continue to do those types of things in OTAs, but the thing I’m keying on is whether he seems to favor (or look more comfortable) at one particular position more than another.

5) Washington – Refer to OTA watching point #1 when it comes to Donald Washington. A guy who got a late start on things a year ago due to NCAA graduation date rules, he’ll get to participate in each of the OTAs this time around.

Washington’s head coach mentioned him a few weeks back as a guy who has been impressive in his progress this off-season. What does that mean for the former Ohio State cornerback who was drafted as a cornerback, but also practiced at safety during the final weeks of 2009?

6) Local Boy – Nope, not Ryan Lilja…the other local guy. Former Mizzou OL Colin Brown is somewhat of an enigma on this roster. He came in as a tackle (2009 draft), was shifted to guard in training camp and wound up injured shortly afterwards. Exactly what do the Chiefs have with Brown? By all indicators he’s seems healthy and ready to go, so hopefully we’ll find out.

7) Run and Hit – Todd Haley likes guys who can run and hit. Essentially, that’s what helped secure roster spots for rookie free agent linebackers Jovan Belcher and Pierre Walters a year ago. Throw Andy Studebaker, who made the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, in that group as well. Will these guys take the next step in 2010?

For Walters, the next step could be as simple as finding his way into defensive sub-packages as well as on each of the coverage units, while Belcher and Studebaker would love to push for more extensive roles after their 2009 performances as reserve players. The next step for each of these players begins on Monday.

8) Putt & The Nose – At some point, it’s likely that Ron Edwards won’t be playing 50 plays per game at the nose tackle position. It’s nothing indicative of the player, but rather the position that he’s been asked to play.

After the departure of Tank Tyler last season, Edwards worked overtime; he was typically a 15-25 snap player in 2008. Veteran Shaun Smith was brought in to compete with a few others at the tackle position, which could help Edwards get a breather, but one of the more interesting players to watch at the nose is Glenn Dorsey.

At first glance, Kansas City may not have the depth at end to move Dorsey towards the interior for significant snaps, but his name has come up on more than one occasion over the past nine months regarding his ability to play multiple positions along the defensive front. I’m just keeping my eye out to see if he takes any reps inside (in any capacity) this spring.

9) D.J. – The Chiefs made the decision to hold on to Derrick Johnson this off-season. Simply put, how do Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel plan to use him in 2010?

10) Gilberry to OLB? – Here’s one that hasn’t been addressed in any way, shape or form by the Chiefs coaching staff or front office, but it’s certainly been a talking point amongst fans on this past winter.

It’s easy to see why fan interest would peak involving Gilberry’s primary position. On one hand, Gilberry is often viewed as undersized for a defensive end. His 6’2, 268-pound frame certainly fits in with the outside linebacking crew, but on the other hand he was a key contributor off the bench at defensive end and led all Chiefs defensive linemen in sacks a year ago.

Do the Chiefs have enough depth at defensive end to try Gilberry at outside linebacker? Is it all a pipe dream? Should the drafting of Cameron Sheffield tell us that Gilberry will stay put at DE?

We’ll probably find out this spring.

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