2012 NFL Preseason: Could Kansas City Chiefs Keep 4 Tight Ends on the Roster?

Derek EstesCorrespondent IAugust 21, 2012

How clear a running lane would Peyton Hillis have with four tight ends clearing the way?
How clear a running lane would Peyton Hillis have with four tight ends clearing the way?Peter Aiken/Getty Images

As far as position battles go, 2012 holds little drama or suspense for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Neither Brady Quinn nor Ricky Stanzi will hit the waiver wire, Dontari Poe will eventually start at nose tackle and Dexter McCluster will start the season in Chiefs red.

The biggest competition (that could actually mean unemployment) is for the third tight end position behind Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss. That final slot could go to either incumbent reserve player Jake O'Connell or the recently re-converted Steve Maneri.

O'Connell has more pro experience with eight starts over the last three years, and he works well as an additional blocker (though he earned more than his fair share of holding calls last year). Maneri, meanwhile, looked sharp playing against the Arizona Cardinals in his first stint at tight end since college.

The Chiefs face a tough call on final cut day, choosing between a known commodity at blocker or a player who's shown solid potential this preseason.

But what's to stop the Chiefs from keeping both players?

Today's NFL isn't so much about having the fastest receiver or biggest lineman to win games. It's about creating mismatches in coverage. Those elite players are unnecessary if a team can force their opponent to try stopping the run with cornerbacks or cover receivers with linemen.

That's exactly what having all four tight ends on the field would do for the Chiefs. In some extreme version of a "jumbo" package, Kansas City would have five players, all 250 pounds or more, capable of running, blocking or catching the ball downfield.

Most defenses won't have a package designed to counter that much size outside of a goal-line situation. That won't do any good when Moeaki and Peyton Hillis break loose deep with Maneri on a five-yard "out" pattern.

That's not to say this package comes without disadvantages. Every extra tight end on the field puts a Dwayne Bowe or Jamaal Charles on the sidelines. These players make serious money for a reason, and it's not to watch reserve players take all the snaps. Charles and Bowe are game-changers; they stand a chance to make the big play every time they're on the field.

But keeping Maneri and O'Connell both on the roster gives Kansas City more options to catch a defense unprepared, and that's worth more to the Chiefs than an extra player who won't likely make the game-day roster.