With all four preseason games in the books, Andy Reid and his coaching staff must peel the 75-man roster to 53. As a long-time head coach and assistant in the National Football League, Reid is familiar with this process and has learned through time how to make the right moves.
The biggest challenge is going to be to find the right 53 players who fit the system and can help Kansas City bounce back from its two-win season.
While the starting spots are solidified, Reid must construct the second and third string spots and get them filled as the team prepares to visit Jacksonville in nine days.
Who makes the 53-man roster? I will give you my projected 53-man roster going into Week 1. As always, chime in on the discussion below!
Alex Smith, Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray
It is clear that Alex Smith is Kansas City’s starting quarterback after the team traded away a second-round pick to San Francisco in exchange for him.
If Smith gets hurt, fans have a reason to be worried. Chase Daniel has been in the league since 2009, but has very limited experience in the regular season. Being an undrafted rookie, Tyler Bray will remain as the third option for Kansas City.
Both Daniel and Bray showed some flashes this preseason and Reid hopes that can carry over to the regular season, if needed.
Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray
Jamaal Charles will have a unique role with the Chiefs this year under a brand new offense. Under Reid’s offense, he will continue to see action on the ground, but also get a lot of touches in the passing game as well.
The Chiefs will need all the help they can get from Knile Davis, Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray, all who will see significant playing time this year, even as backups.
Davis excelled on special teams this preseason, showing off his speed and agility. If he can do the same thing on offense, the Chiefs will perform better than last season.
Anthony Sherman, who the Chiefs traded for by trading away Javier Arenas to Arizona, has already beat out one rookie in Braden Wilson and his only competition left is Toben Opurum. Opurum spent the past three years as a defensive end and hasn’t played fullback since his freshman year at Kansas, giving Sherman the upper hand in this position battle.
Anthony Fasano, Kevin Brock and Travis Kelce
With Tony Moeaki and Travis Kelce both hurt, the Chiefs are very thin at tight end. Anthony Fasano will begin the season the starter. However, Kelce or Moeaki, more likely Kelce, will begin the season inactive and the Chiefs will be forced to make Kevin Brock the second tight end until Kelce recovers.
The good news for Smith is that the player with the most experience, Fasano, is healthy and will be ready to go when the season gets underway. Smith will throw in Fasano’s direction quite a lot to open up the passing game.
Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster, A.J. Jenkins and Devon Wylie
With Jon Baldwin traded away, Chiefs fans can expect Donnie Avery to be the No. 2 starting wide receiver behind Dwayne Bowe. Avery had his best season last year in his four-year career and hopes to improve while Bowe looks to rebound and bring his 2010 form to the gridiron.
Smith has a lot of speed within the receiving corps, but can they come through?
A.J. Jenkins looks for a fresh start in Kansas City and already has some familiarity with Smith back in San Francisco. If Jenkins pulls through and gets over the rookie slump, Kansas City’s passing game will be a threat.
Left tackle: Branden Albert and Donald Stephenson
Left guard: Jeff Allen and Matt Reynolds
Center: Rodney Hudson and Eric Kush
Right guard: Jon Asamoah
Right tackle: Eric Fisher and Geoff Schwartz
Kansas City’s offensive line was the weakest link this preseason, allowing quarterbacks to be sacked and giving them just limited time to make a pass. With a lot of pieces of the puzzle complete, a mishap from the offensive line could keep the Chiefs from reaching their potential.
Branden Albert, Jeff Allen, Rodney Hudson, Jon Asamoah and Eric Fisher have all been drafted by the Chiefs in the first three rounds since 2008 and now look to build a foundation under Reid.
Geoff Schwartz is an experienced starter, despite the fact he may start the season as a backup. If an injury goes down, the Chiefs may do some shifting on the line and bring Schwartz into the group of starters.
Left End: Tyson Jackson, Allen Bailey and Austen Lane
Nose Tackle: Dontari Poe and Jerrell Powe
Right End: Mike DeVito and Anthony Toribio
With the loss of Glenn Dorsey, Mike DeVito will fill in as the new right defensive end for the Chiefs as Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe return.
Jackson, despite struggling for most of his career, shined during the second half of 2012, helping the Chiefs with their pass rush and stopping the run. Jackson, who quietly finished third on the team in sacks, will return as one of the leaders on this defense.
Outside Linebacker 1: Tamba Hali and Edgar Jones
Outside Linebacker 2: Justin Houston and Frank Zombo
Inside Linebacker 1: Derrick Johnson and Zac Diles
Inside Linebacker 2: Akeem Jordan and Nico Johnson
Kansas City’s biggest strength comes at the linebacker position, both outside and inside. Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston all appeared in last year’s Pro Bowl and were recognized as some of the best linebackers in the NFL.
Johnson has been on the defense the longest and has evolved into one of the better run-stoppers today.
Hali and Houston hold the key to Kansas City’s success this year. The two will apply pressure on a lot of opposing quarterbacks including Peyton Manning, twice. As long as Hali and Houston remain healthy, Kansas City’s defense will give the offense plenty of opportunities to take the lead and gather a lot of wins.
The Chiefs also have some strong depth with Frank Zombo and Nico Johnson.
Cornerback: Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith, Dunta Robinson, Jalil Brown and Greg Castillo
Strong Safety: Eric Berry and Quintin Demps
Free Safety: Kendrick Lewis, Husain Abdullah and Tysyn Hartman
Thanks to the stacked linebacking corps and strong pass rush, Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith, Dunta Robinson and Eric Berry are going to pick up a lot of interceptions this year. Pressure from Hali and Houston will force quarterbacks to throw ill-advised passes, giving these defensive backs a better chance at increasing their interception total.
Quintin Demps and Tysyn Hartman are still a progress as safeties, but their ability to pull through on special teams puts them in good position to make the 53-man roster.
Punter: Dustin Colquitt
Kicker: Ryan Succop
Long Snapper: Thomas Gafford
No surprises here. The trio of Dustin Colquitt, Ryan Succop and Thomas Gafford has been in Kansas City together since 2009. The three have worked well as a unit and should perform even better with Dave Toub as the special teams coordinator.
After only making three-of-six field goals in the final four games, Succop connected on all nine field goals this preseason, including two from 48 yards away in Thursday's win against the Green Bay Packers.
Top 5 Considerations for return specialists: S Quintin Demps, RB Knile Davis, WR Dexter McCluster, WR Devon Wylie and RB Jamaal Charles
Both Demps and Davis impressed a lot of people when they took a kick return from their own end zone and went the entire distance to score a touchdown. Toub will likely consider Demps and Davis as the top two options on kickoffs and punt returns.
McCluster and Wylie have had big returns in the preseason and have had flashes in the past on special teams.
Charles also proved before he can dominate on special teams, but he should only be used in emergency situations.