Sorting Out The Safeties

Posted Aug 23, 2011

The battle for reserve roster spots at safety is one of camp's most competitive

The Chiefs kept five safeties after training camp’s final cut last season. There are currently eight safeties vying for a roster spot in camp right now. Of the eight, seven have NFL experience. Six of those seven have once suited up for the Chiefs.

As the final two weeks of the preseason charge towards a close, one of the hottest roster battles in Chiefs camp is the fight for reserve positions at safety.

“I think that we have good competition,” Head Coach Todd Haley said of the position group. “As we went through the game review as a staff and graded the guys, (safety) was definitely one of those spots that we talked about.”

Take starters Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis off the bubble and the Chiefs have six players competing for three spots, maybe four, on the 53-man roster. That group of remaining players includes 197 games of NFL experience.

Jon McGraw is the veteran of the bunch, re-signing with the Chiefs as an unrestricted free agent this offseason and finding himself in the mix of numerous sub-package sets with the first-team defense. He’s worked with the second-team in base alignment throughout the preseason.

At the moment, McGraw seems to have a stronghold on one of the roster spots.

“Obviously, Jon McGraw is there, and he’s not out of the mix to even be out front in the mix,” Haley said.

The second-most experienced player at the position is also one of the newest. Sabby Piscitelli (or “Jersey Shore” as Haley likes to call him) owns 20 starts and 50 games of NFL action on his resumé, but he didn’t sign with the team until August 4th.

Piscitelli has gotten more game looks than maybe any defensive back this preseason. The Chiefs are using the exhibition slate to see how the former second-round pick fits into Kansas City’s plans.

“I love the snaps,” Piscitelli said. “Everyone wants a job, but everybody can’t get it. You have to come in here, perform every day and just do your job. It’s the coach’s job to pick who they want to keep and who the best fit for this team is.”

After making 15 starts for Tampa Bay in 2009, Piscitelli fell to a reserve role last season and was eventually released by the Bucs in late November. He’d play the final five games of the year in Cleveland when he was awarded to the Browns via waiver claim. The Chiefs picked him up as an unrestricted free agent.

Piscitelli feels that the Chiefs style of defense plays to his strengths.

“In Tampa they were more of the ‘Tampa Two’ kind of team and wanted athletic safeties to kind of keep everything in front of them,” Piscitelli said. “Here, they ask their safeties to be a little more aggressive and make plays for their team. That’s kind of like the style I came from in college and I feel really comfortable in this defense.”

The rest of the position group is comprised of youngsters, but rookie free agent Javes Lewis is the only player who doesn’t possess any NFL experience.

Donald Washington, Reshard Langford and Ricky Price have all been part of the Chiefs 53-man roster at one time or another over the past two seasons and the trio has also factored into Kansas City’s special teams plans.

“I feel like pretty much everybody can play and that everyone can get a spot on this team; it’s a battle out there every day,” said Washington, who moved from cornerback to safety in 2009. “I feel like I’m getting the grasp at that position more. The game is starting to slow down for me in the way I read things.”

Price brings similar versatility, having played both cornerback and safety for the Chiefs.

Langford is the hitter of the group, built almost like a linebacker. He’s turned heads throughout camp with the loud pops that accompany his ability to square up on ball carriers. Langford’s also been working as a Core Four special teams player, notching first-group reps on the kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return units.

“I know what helped me make the team last year was special teams,” Langford said. “So I’m trying to take that same route in doing well on special teams and when my number is called at my position I’m trying to make plays and do the right thing.”

Every safety on the Chiefs roster last season played special teams, Pro Bowler Eric Berry included. With competition in the reserve ranks so heavy, the chance to separate from the pack may come by way of special teams.

“Usually, when we get through going through a position and we know it’s going to be critical and there’s good competition, that’s one of those where I kind of stop the meeting and I’m like, ‘Coach Hoffman, now are you hearing this?’” Haley said. “Special teams might be one of the separators here in this battle.”

Chiefs Safeties

SS: Berry, Langford, Washington

FS: K. Lewis, McGraw, Piscitelli, Price, J. Lewis

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