When the Kansas City Chiefs open training camp on July 26, there will be plenty of jostling for positions up and down the depth chart. From starting spots to the practice squad, competition is sure to be fierce as the Chiefs prepare for the 2012 season.
After a productive offseason orchestrated by general manager Scott Pioli, the Chiefs are in prime position to put their 2011 season in the rear-view mirror, take back their AFC West title from the Denver Broncos and possibly end their playoff-victory drought (0-7 over an 18 season span).
While it is assumed that many of the starters are in place, there are a couple of positions still up for grabs: namely nose tackle, No. 2 wide receiver (assuming Dwayne Bowe will be in a Chiefs uniform and sign his franchise tender) and middle linebacker opposite of Derrick Johnson.
After using first-round picks the last two years on a wide receiver and nose tackle, it is difficult to not assume that Jon Baldwin and Dontari Poe have the competitive edge as the potential starters at their respective positions heading into camp.
Baldwin’s rookie season was certainly nothing to write home about, but he was drafted to be the No. 2 wide receiver. And if Bowe and the Chiefs eventually part ways, Baldwin immediately becomes the team’s top target.
With no real competition other than Steve Breaston, who is more suited in the slot as a possession receiver, Baldwin should emerge from camp as the starter.
Poe is attempting to buck the recent trend of the Chiefs’ failures to evaluate and develop first-round defensive linemen into NFL stars.
If he doesn’t start right away, fans will be ready to clamor “bust” in Poe’s direction before he even gets a chance to prove that his combine numbers do indeed translate to the NFL level. Though he should have the edge over Jerrell Powe regardless, this fact alone gives him the leg up to open the season as starter.
The most competitive position battle for the Chiefs heading into training camp is at the middle linebacker position.
Jovan Belcher is your incumbent starter, while Brandon Siler is looking to regain form after missing all of last season with a torn Achilles he suffered during the preseason.
Perceived as the weak link in an improving defense, most thought that the Chiefs would look at middle linebacker at the draft for an immediate upgrade.
They did not, meaning that Scott Pioli and Co. either feel that the deficiency can be masked by the surrounding players, or that either Belcher or Siler can indeed excel in a group that also features Tamba Hali, Johnson and up-and-coming Justin Houston.
The edge would have to go to Belcher to emerge as the starter. But if Siler is healthy, he has a chance to make a push to take the position that he was brought in to challenge for in 2011.
Regardless of who wins the job, the Chiefs’ agenda will remain the same. Neither Belcher nor Siler will be the difference maker on this defense, and the backup will play an important role on special teams. In short, Belcher and Siler are interchangeable.
If everything falls into place for the Chiefs, the biggest peeps we may hear out of these two all season is the battle during training camp and preseason to be named starter when real football begins against the Atlanta Falcons on September 9.