Training camp is a wrap. The second preseason game is in the books. And the Kansas City Chiefs are just three weeks away from lining it up against the Atlanta Falcons Week 1 at Arrowhead Stadium.
General manager Scott Pioli and the Chiefs emerged from the offseason having answered many of the questions that left the 2011 season with much to be desired. But as the NFL confirms on a yearly basis, what looks good on paper rarely holds true through the gauntlet of the 16 game schedule.
The business side of the game is put into cruise control shortly after the draft, as organized team activities (OTAs), training camp and a handful of preseason games help determine if all the right moves were made.
Most free agents brought in have a purpose. Their track record typically speaks for itself and they will fill a void in the starting lineup or provide depth in key areas.
However, rookies oftentimes enter the league needing to find their spot with their new team. It is rare for first-year players to be handed anything. But even when they are, veterans do an outstanding job of still making them earn it.
The Chiefs used this year's draft to add depth. After everything that has led up to the completion of two preseason games, that decision is paying dividends.
While many on the roster are still trying to find their exact role, things are shaping up quite nicely for some of the rookies.
The Chiefs are learning where all the young players are comfortable and can best contribute to the team. Whether it be in a specified role or just wherever needed, this season's rookie class will have a major effect on how the 2012 season turns out.
Here is a look at some of the rookies and how they have performed through the second preseason game.
Dontari Poe (nose tackle): B-
Poe looked great in sub packages during camp. It might take a while for him to get acclimated to his streamlined role, but a hit on the quarterback and a batted pass against the St. Louis Rams Saturday night is exactly what the Chiefs are looking for.
Poe's emergence will help Tamba Hali and Justin Houston do what they do best: sack the opposing quarterback.
Devon Wylie (wide receiver): C-
With a crowded bunch at wide receiver for the Chiefs (Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin, Steve Breaston and Dexter McCluster), Wylie will have to make his name in special teams.
So far that hasn't happened. But with two preseason games remaining, Wylie will have plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.
Cyrus Gray (running back): B-
Gray led the Chiefs in rushing attempts and yards in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals. But was held out of the game against the Rams on Saturday.
The emergence of second-year back Shaun Draughn will dig into his ability to contribute. But when given the opportunity, Gray has impressed.
Jeff Allen (offensive lineman): B+
Allen's ability to play both guard and tackle will be key for the Chiefs in 2012. His versatility will allow Kansas City to mask a lack of depth across the line and allow them to keep an extra player at another position of need.
Donald Stephenson (offensive lineman): B
Stephenson will serve as the primary backup to left tackle Branden Albert, who is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. Having depth at tackle his huge for the Chiefs, who lacked that presence last season.
Junior Hemingway (wide receiver): Incomplete
Hemingway has yet to contribute anything on the field. The emergence of other wide receivers has his roster spot in jeopardy, but he could end up on the practice squad.
DeQuan Menzie (defensive back): C-
Menzie was able to log three tackles against the Cardinals in the first preseason game. He should contribute as a solid backup for the Chiefs this season.
Jerome Long (defensive tackle): C
Although Long did record a sack in the first preseason game, he is a long-shot to make the roster. If the Chiefs want to continue to see what they have in him, he could end up on the practice squad.
Nate Eachus (running back): C
Although Eachus has sort of emerged as a fan favorite, the Chiefs' backfield is loaded. Great story, but he doesn't make the cut, although the practice squad is a possibility.
Alex Tanney (quarterback): Incomplete
The YouTube sensation hasn't seen any game time. Even with second-year quarterback Ricky Stanzi struggling mightily this preseason, Tanney is a long-shot to the make the roster.
Josh Bellamy (wide receiver): C
Competition for the sixth wide receiver could come down to the end. With a signature moment, Bellamy could emerge. But it is likely Terrance Copper or Jeremy Horne leads this race right now with Bellamy possibly landing on the practice squad.
Tim Biere (tight end): Incomplete
With Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss locking up two of the three available tight end slots, Biere is left to battle Jake O'Connell and current favorite Steve Maneri for the last spot. With opportunities few and far between, Biere probably won't make the cut.
Brandon Kinnie and Aaron Weaver (wide receiver): Incomplete
Limited opportunities will prove costly for Kinnie and Weaver.
Cam Holland (center): Incomplete
With Ryan Lilja serving as the backup to center Rodney Hudson, Holland literally has no shot at making the team.
Ethan Johnson (defensive end): Incomplete
With so many spots already locked up, Johnson won't have the opportunity to play his way into the mix.
Dexter Heyman (linebacker): C-
Limited opportunities and a locked in linebacking corps will keep Heyman off the field, but he is a strong candidate to wind up on the practice squad.
Tysyn Hartman (defensive back): A-
With Kendrick Lewis expected to miss time with a shoulder injury, Hartman has a chance to make some noise in the Chiefs' secondary. While Abram Elam looks to slide into the starting role right now, Hartman can make that decision difficult if he continues to do his job well.
Dominique Ellis, Chandler Fenner, Jean Fanor, Terrance Parks and Neiko Thorpe (defensive back): Incomplete
With limited opportunities, the only shot these players have is by way of the practice squad.
Matt Szymanski (kicker): C
The Chiefs' special teams unit is set, but Szymanski has provided decent competition to keep Dustin Colquitt and Ryan Succop on their toes.
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