Training camp for the Kansas City Chiefs opened last Friday and much is abuzz about the new faces up and down the roster and on the coaching staff. There is also plenty of humming surrounding those that aren’t present, second-year players ready for a larger role and players returning from injury.
General manager Scott Pioli did a fantastic job this offseason of making upgrades and adding depth to key spots along the Chiefs’ depth chart.
Eric Winston was brought in at right tackle to end the Barry Richardson project in Kansas City, cornerback Stanford Routt replaces the departed Brandon Carr (Dallas Cowboys), Kevin Boss adds a reliable complement at tight end to Tony Moeaki, who is coming off a torn ACL, and Peyton Hillis was signed at running back to accompany a returning Jamaal Charles (torn ACL) in the backfield.
While it seems the Chiefs utilized this year’s draft to stockpile the depth chart, there are a few names that could pop up often during the preseason.
First-round pick Dontari Poe looks to translate the “workout warrior” label into actual NFL success, offensive linemen Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson should be very active as the Chiefs are thin at offensive line behind the starters, and with Bowe still a no-show, wide receivers Devon Wylie and Junior Hemingway will garner tons of looks as well.
The biggest story last season in Kansas City was the injury bug early in the year.
The healthy returns of safety Eric Berry, Charles and Moeaki—all stifled with torn ACLs before the second game of the season—will be key to the Chiefs’ plans this season.
Brandon Siler also missed the entire season with a torn Achilles tendon after being brought in to compete for the starting middle linebacker spot opposite Derrick Johnson, and Matt Cassel looks to regain his 2010 form after missing half of the season with a hand injury.
With Bowe still having not signed his franchise tender, wide receiver Jon Baldwin expects to benefit the most from the extra work. Whether or not he was drafted to eventually replace Bowe might never be answered, but being in the spotlight will certainly go a long way towards finding out if he is capable of doing so.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston is also out to build off a strong finish to his rookie season (5.5 sacks over the final five games).
There are obviously more than a handful of storylines surrounding the Chiefs as the 2012 season approaches.
I posed this question to some Chiefs fans on Twitter: “What are you most looking forward to seeing out of the Chiefs leading up to the first preseason game?”
Here are the responses. Feel free to leave yours in the comments section as well.
"I’m most looking forward to seeing the development of the receiving corps, both with and without Bowe."
"The health of Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki—all very crucial to the success of the team in 2012 and beyond."
"1) Is running game back to full strength? 2) Is Dontari Poe showing “dominant player” signs? 3) Does time missed hurt Bowe?"
"Before the 1st preseason game, I’d like to see: Dwayne Bowe sign, Dontari Poe continue to impress and the O-line dominate just one practice."
"During the game, I’d like to see: The ACL crew all make a play, then get out of the game. Want to see this with all the starters actually, then the YOUTH!"
"Preseason is about depth and development for me. We are four years into a rebuild without much of an ’09 class, going to need the youngsters."
"People talk about Cassel, Bowe, Charles, etc…at their best we still barely win the division…the next step is the young guys developing."
Jeremy Sickel is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.