Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Baldwin and Other Training Camp Battles to Watch
They missed the playoffs last season, but the Kansas City Chiefs are still a very dangerous team. This level of talent usually means that many starting gigs won't be up for debate, but there are still some key depth areas that need to be situated.
Injuries hit the team hard last year, and Kansas City is relying heavily on returning stars to help them compete in the AFC West.
Quarterback Matt Cassel missed the last seven games, and he returns as the unquestioned starter. Behind him, second-year pro Ricky Stanzi and Brady Quinn are in a furious battle for the backup position.
Training camp is just around the corner, and here are some roles that will be up for grabs when the Chiefs convene in July.
No. 2 Receiver
Jonathan Baldwin needs to step up.
His rookie season has to be considered a disappointment even though the former Pittsburgh Panther showed some flashes of excellence.
If he can grab the second spot behind Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs will boast one of the best groups of wide receivers in the league.
If Baldwin doesn't win, the No. 2 role will be in the capable hands of Steve Breaston. Breaston was a tremendous asset last season when he became the go-to guy on third-down situations.
Baldwin played in the slot and next to the line of scrimmage for much of last season, and it seemed as if he was used in the same role as injured tight end Tony Moeaki.
He has much work to do in order to learn the demands of playing wideout, but the good news is that the Chiefs have plenty of depth surrounding Baldwin.
Here is another position where if one young guy can step up, the entire group will benefit greatly.
Ryan Lilja admitted he played poorly last season, and the Chiefs invested a number of draft picks on the offensive line as a result.
One of those selections was Illinois tackle Jeff Allen. Allen will make the transition to NFL guard and give Lilja a tightly contested battle in camp.
Allen has been injured, so he will have a learning ahead of him in order to be a starter.
No. 2 Quarterback
Playing quarterback in Kansas City may be one of the toughest jobs in sports.
The fanbase has been desperate for a guy to call their own for ages and only seem to get second-tier castoffs instead.
Matt Cassel has played well in spots, but the Arrowhead faithful have yet to fully support him.
Enter Ricky Stanzi.
Stanzi is a fifth-round pick, but for some reason, some fans in Kansas City have been clamoring for the former Hawkeye to get a chance.
Stanzi has some potential but will not be starting any time soon. He may get a crack at the backup role if he plays well in camp.
Brady Quinn will be in the running as well and has familiarity will the new offense of Brian Daboll.
Reports say that Stanzi has played well in OTAs, and this should be one of the key battles this summer.
Cassel is a tough competitor, and he has missed some games, so it's likely that the winner of this job will see the field at some point in 2012.
The only way a 3-4 defense can be effective is with a stud nose tackle, and the Chiefs hope they have one in Dontari Poe.
Poe was selected with the 11th overall pick in this year's draft. Poe will get every chance to earn a starting role, and he will battle Amon Gordon and last season's draft selection—Jerrell Powe.
Gordon played well last December but will be behind the eight ball during this camp battle.
Dontari Poe will get the lion's share of the work and receive every opportunity to start by Week 1.
No. 2 Returner
The Chiefs will look to use multiple returners in 2012 in an attempt to keep Javier Arenas fresh. Arenas played very well last season, but the Chiefs need him at full strength on defense.
Lucky for them, they have many options to chose from.
Dexter McCluster is an explosive weapon and will get some looks at both returner spots during camp.
Rookie Devon Wylie will also be in the mix as well.
Kansas City needs Javier Arenas healthy at nickel corner, and having these guys give him a break is a welcome idea.
The linebacker corps in Kansas City is on the way to being a very formidable group.
Tamba Hali is joined by Justin Houston outside, and if Houston plays like he did late last season, these two will be wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks soon.
All-Pro Derrick Johnson was joined by Jovan Belcher inside during 2012. Belcher has been a decent thumper during his three years as a Chief, but he will face stiff competition in the form of Brandon Siler.
Siler was injured last preseason, but he could easily nab the starting job with a strong camp.