11 Chiefs Players to Keep an Eye on in Preseason Games This Month
I had a chance to cover the Chiefs training camp on Friday, and I noticed that the team continues to blend well together while undergoing their first training camp under head coach Romeo Crennel.
With the preseason opener upon us, Chiefs fans should keep their eye on a few players in exhibition games this month, as coaches carefully evaluate their players to eventually put together their 53-man roster.
QBs Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi
After Matt Cassel went down with an injury last season, Tyler Palko stepped in at quarterback, but struggled immensely while the Chiefs gave away the first place lead in the AFC West. Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll want to make sure that they have the right backup quarterback, if Cassel has to miss any action in 2012.
Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi will have a chance to be the No. 2 quarterback on the team. Both have a respectable college career and want to carry that over to the NFL. This preseason, look for the two to get a lot of playing time as they battle for the top backup spot.
Quinn has not played a regular season game in over two years, while Stanzi did not go in for a snap during his rookie season.
RB/WR Dexter McCluster
Dexter McCluster is currently listed as a running back on the team's roster. However, McCluster was mostly active as a slot receiver during training camp.
On Friday, McCluster pushed his way forward with a big block, giving Peyton Hillis an open lane to gain a few extra yards in a scrimmage. With his versatility, the Chiefs want to keep his options open and use his speed the right way.
When preseason games get underway, Crennel will have a better idea of where McCluster will be by the time the Chiefs begin the regular season.
RB Nate Eachus
As an undrafted free agent, Nate Eachus has a big obstacle in his way and must do what previous undrafted survivors have done. For Eachus, he needs to show his coaches that he is ready to play in the NFL.
Friday's camp session ended with a touchdown pass from Stanzi to Eachus, who lined up as a running back before the snap. Eachus hopes that with camp moments like that, his team can rely on him to help contribute in the fourth quarter of preseason games. If Eachus succeeds, he could earn himself a spot on the roster.
FB Shane Bannon
Shane Bannon is currently the only fullback on the Chiefs at present He has a lot on his plate while working with the starters and backups on the team. Even though the Chiefs have had some tight ends line up as a fullback in training camp, nothing is for sure how the Chiefs will move forward or if they want to sign another fullback.
For now, Bannon has been the lone fullback for the Chiefs. His chances of playing a lot in the preseason are good, giving him the opportunity to showcase his skills and to earn himself a spot.
WR Jon Baldwin
Everyone knows about Dwayne Bowe, who is skipping camp with his franchise tender yet to be signed.
Jon Baldwin has been taking a lot out of Bowe's absence as the team's No. 1 receiver. With Bowe continuing to miss time, Baldwin continues to get more attention.
Last year, Baldwin's rookie season was tough due to the lockout and no OTAs while also missing a majority of training camp with a broken thumb. This year, Baldwin has worked with Cassel in preparing for the 2012 season.
NT Dontari Poe
The Chiefs have not been lucky with defensive linemen in recent drafts, but this is their first defensive lineman selected since Crennel became part of the Chiefs franchise.
Poe's preseason is important, as every rookie's is for the usual reasons. But for Poe, he must step up and be able to start right away to help the Chiefs defense be a force this season.
OLB Justin Houston
Justin Houston's improvement caught a lot of eyes after tallying 5.5 sacks in the second half of his rookie campaign.
Not only have the Chiefs found a viable pass-rusher opposite of Tamba Hali, but they could have two good pass-rushers going into September 9 when the Chiefs host the Atlanta Falcons in their first game of the regular season.
With Derrick Johnson also part of the linebacking corps, the Chiefs could surprise a lot of teams and be referred to as the team with the best group of linebackers in the league by the time the season is over. The Chiefs know what they are getting out of Hali from one end, and hope Houston can excel from the other end.
RB/WR Dexter McCluster, CB Javier Arenas, WR Steve Breaston and WR Devon Wylie
This counts as three, since McCluster was mentioned earlier.
The Chiefs have an interesting situation on their hands with special teams. They are seeking to be dominant on all three phases.
Throughout all of training camp, McCluster, Javier Arenas, Steve Breaston and Devon Wylie have all split time returning punts during special teams practice. It's hard to say at this point who is more deserving of the job or who is ahead of who.
But with four candidates for the position, the Chiefs would like to explore their skills in preseason games to see who gives them the best chance to succeed in the regular season.
While the Chiefs want one player to be the primary returner, don't count out the possibility of the other three players coming away with a couple of returns in 2012.