Know Your Role

Posted Aug 27, 2010

Look for the Chiefs to "role play" tonight vs. Philadelphia

Tonight is the most exciting game of the preseason. Aside from many fans getting their first look at The New Arrowhead, the reason for excitement isn’t a reflection of tonight’s opponent, nor is it the extended play-time of front-line players, or the signal that exhibition play is nearly over; though each of those factors does indeed help.

What’s exciting about tonight is that we are actually going to see the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs start to take shape.

For weeks, Todd Haley has offered reminders that the Chiefs depth chart wasn’t an in-house focal point of training camp. One month into the preseason, many of the starting positions on the club seem to have already been decided. For example, we’ve seen little to no rotation of starters at wide receiver, on the offensive line, or at cornerback.

While some positions remain up for grabs, such as inside linebacker and center, the Chiefs are beginning to move to the next stage of the preseason tonight. For lack of a better term, Haley is going to put his players in “role playing” situations tonight against the Eagles.

“We need to get into some of the role playing that is going to go on,” Haley said. “On good teams, everyone knows their role.”

What does it all mean?

We’re going to learn a little bit more about what Haley and company think that the Chiefs Final 53 is going to look like, particularly in the reserve ranks.

Take RB Jackie Battle for example. Battle is coming off a solid showing against Tampa Bay that carried into practice sessions earlier this week. As he continues to try and win the Chiefs third running back job, Battle will also run on multiple special teams units as well. But will Battle also get his name called in short-yardage or goal line situations with the first-team, or is that a job solely for Thomas Jones?

What sets to the Chiefs prefer Jamaal Charles over Jones?

In what situations does Mike Cox man the fullback position instead of Tim Castille, and vice-versa? Is there even a preference, or does it appear that the Chiefs may only keep one player at fullback?

Its a third-and-six situation, is Dexter McCluster on the field in the slot, or is it Jerheme Urban? Where does Jeremy Horne fit in?

“Roles are starting to be defined,” OLB Mike Vrabel said. “We’re looking at the third preseason game right now and we’re close. We’re real close. We’ll see guys start developing roles and make up this team.”

Vrabel himself is involved in a role-related question that tonight’s game could provide some guidance on.

Last week, the Chiefs showed a new wrinkle to their nickel package. It was something that we had seen several times in practice, but not as much in games. Andy Studebaker came into the game and pushed Mike Vrabel from left outside linebacker to inside linebacker, in place of the sam linebacker (Jovan Belcher).

The Chiefs four-man nickel front consisted of two down linemen (Wallace Gilberry and Glenn Dorsey), with Studebaker and Tamba Hali walked up on the edge. Derrick Johnson was paired with Vrabel inside. The personnel grouping is conducive to creating pressure on the quarterback.

Is this a role that the Chiefs will expect Studebaker, Vrabel and Gilberry to play on a weekly basis during the regular season, or was it just a trial against Tampa? These are the little things that make tonight’s game the best of all preseason match-ups to watch. Without opening the playbook, the Chiefs will tip us off to some of their regular season personnel plans.

“With this game, we need to put some guys into positions and situations that they have a better chance of being in once the season starts,” Haley said. “That could be a sub rusher, a third-down back, a short yardage back, goal-line, it could be a tight end, it could be a heavy set.”

Of course, there are also players on the roster who already carry very well defined roles; Matt Cassel and the three specialists are obvious examples. But for many other players on a young roster, adapting to gameday roles is part of becoming a team.

“If you’re a younger guy, it may take a week or two into the regular season before you really start to find out what you can do and what the team needs you to do,” Vrabel explained. “It may be on special teams, it may be starting and it may be coming in on certain packages.”

That process will begin to take shape for the Chiefs tonight.

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