Predicting Kansas City Chiefs' 1st Wave of Roster Cuts
The first wave of cuts for the Kansas City Chiefs will cull a lot of surplus on the offense. As many as five wide receivers will be shoved off the roster, with a running back and tight end joining them.
Expect to see two to three linemen join that group. Speaking of linemen, there will be no room for a couple of trench warriors in the defensive rotation.
The decision to draft outside linebacker Dee Ford in the first round means the team can part with a couple of backup players at his position. It's also safe to assume at least one member of the secondary will be handed walking papers.
Here's a breakdown of the prospective first wave of cuts in Kansas City.
Cut: Cyrus Gray, RB
Rookie fourth-round pick De'Anthony Thomas has been one of the stars of training camp this offseason. He has impressed as both a runner and receiver.
Thomas is already elevating himself into a prominent role as a versatile playmaker in the offensive sub-packages, per an Associated Press report on Chiefs.com. That bodes well for this season's attack but is an ominous sign for Cyrus Gray.
He's had just 16 carries and caught only nine passes in two seasons, per numbers via NFL.com. That's not the kind of production expected from a player who was once counted on to add speed and dual-threat skills to the offense.
It's Thomas' form as a runner that really dooms Gray. Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star detailed how Thomas has impressed on inside runs: "Thomas showed off his quickness and toughness as a runner, as he repeatedly took handoffs, exploded through crevices in the defense and bounced back up after a few shots from bigger players."
Most expected the ex-Oregon ace to be a threat as a receiver, but if Thomas proves he can be a productive ball-carrier in a rotation with Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, then there would be no need to keep Gray around.
Cut: Richard Gordon, TE
The return to health of Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce means there isn't a place for Richard Gordon at tight end.
That has helped him during training camp, as he’s proven to be light on his feet and nimble for his size. He’s also hauled in a variety of impressive catches, including a few he’s either caught one-handed or tipped to himself.
This should not be a surprise. Fasano has a reputation a strong, reliable blocker, but he also has very dependable hands — he went all of 2012 without a dropping a pass.
Cut: Rishaw Johnson, G
The performance of sixth-round pick Zach Fulton during camp is sure to push Rishaw Johnson off the roster. The process began at minicamp, when ESPN writer Adam Teicher noted how Fulton and Johnson shared time with the starters.
Since then, Fulton has progressed to leave Johnson trailing. Randy Covitz of The Kansas City Star has tabbed Fulton as a potential sleeper:
Allen was thrust into the Chiefs starting lineup in his fourth game, but current rookie Zach Fulton may have him beat. Fulton, a sixth-round draft pick from Tennessee this year, vaulted up the depth chart in training camp and has staked his claim at right guard.
Fulton’s the only member of the 2014 rookie class listed in the starting lineup heading into the Thursday night preseason opener against Cincinnati.
But he doesn’t play like a rookie.
With Jeff Allen at one guard spot and Fulton at the other, it's going to be difficult for Johnson to stake his claim to a place on the roster. His situation is compounded by the presence of Rick Henry and free-agent acquisition Jeffrey Linkenbach.
At this point, they are more likely to provide depth at two of the three interior spots.
Probably Cut: Ryan McKee, T, Ben Gottschalk, C, Otis Hudson, G
The fast start made by Fulton, along with the signings of Linkenbach, J'Marcus Webb and Ryan Harris, means the Chiefs are going to have to thin the crowd a little along the offensive line.
That process should see Ryan McKee and Ben Gottschalk released in the first wave. They will probably be joined by Otis Hudson.
With Fulton and Henry, the Chiefs can take some chances at guard. Linkenbach can also play either guard spot or even shift out to tackle.
That versatility, along with the presence of Harris, means there'll be no place for McKee or Hudson. Expect the team to give Webb a longer look to prove he can still contribute.
Cut: Weston Dressler, Fred Williams, Jerrell Jackson, WR
Tough choices also have to be made at wide receiver. It's a position where the team is currently carrying 13 players.
At least a trio from that number can be quickly removed during the first wave. One of the more difficult decisions will concern former Canadian Football League star Weston Dressler.
By his own admission, the pint-sized pass-catcher has found it tough dealing with the rigors of camp, as noted by Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star:
Dressler, 29, dropped a few passes and struggled to gain separation on his routes, but as he’s grown more comfortable with the Chiefs’ playbook, the speed of the NFL game and the smaller field — both its length and width — his performance surged a bit, too.
Dressler said he’s still adjusting to the physicality of camp, but the smaller confines are the bigger problem right now.
Palmer may have seen slight improvements in Dressler's game, but they won't be enough to keep him around. His age (29) and slight 5'7", 179-pound frame will count against him.
A pair of young flankers will follow Dressler out the door. Of this group, Fred Williams and Jerrell Jackson seem the most likely.
Fellow unheralded wideouts Mark Harrison and Frankie Hammond have each enjoyed impressive moments at camp. Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star has highlighted Hammond's recent good work.
Meanwhile, a separate report from Palmer explained how Harrison has turned heads.
The Chiefs will begin the process of narrowing their options at wide receiver slowly. The team will keep 10 around before identifying the next trio to tread the same path to the exits as Dressler and company.
On the Bubble: Tyler Bray, QB
The choice of third-string quarterback is going to be a contentious one. It's a battle between Tyler Bray and rookie Aaron Murray.
Many people like Bray, who does have some skills. Meanwhile, Murray is rightly considered a project. ESPN reporter Teicher recently declared Murray is still propping up the rotation at this position.
However, the most interesting aspect of that report was a contrast in styles between Murray and Bray:
Murray doesn't have a big arm, particularly when compared to that of Bray. When he makes plays, they generally come because of good decision-making rather than raw ability.
But Murray has shown enough that the Chiefs should keep him around.
It's this exact reason why Bray will find himself on the bubble during the first wave of cuts. Head coach Andy Reid and coordinator Doug Pederson's offense is all about sensible decisions from an efficient quarterback. That's one reason why Alex Smith thrived last season.
While Bray can launch a vertical strike, his gunslinger skills aren't necessary in this scheme. If Murray can prove he can spread the ball around via smartly chosen high-percentage throws, he's more likely to be kept around.
He'll get that chance in Kansas City's preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Kansas City Star scribe Randy Covitz has reported all four quarterbacks on the depth chart will get a quarter apiece to showcase their skills.
In another article for ESPN, Teicher dubbed Murray "too talented to turn loose." However, this battle will be decided by the best scheme fit, not the strongest arm.
Probably Cut: Dezman Moses, Alonzo Highsmith, OLB
This is a bit of a split judgment. Linebacker Dezman Moses is probably going to be cut, while Alonzo Highsmith almost certainly will be.
The latter's fate is sealed by the arrival of top draft pick Dee Ford. The ex-Auburn star gives the Kansas City defense something it didn't have last season. Ford provides quality depth and genuine starter potential behind outside pass-rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
But it isn't just the presence of Ford that dooms Highsmith and puts Moses in trouble. A solid camp from Josh Martin is also a strong factor.
Martin has wowed Hali with his offseason work, per Randy Covitz of The Kansas City Star:
Putting all of us in there, we all love rushing. Coach (Bob) Sutton is going to be the one to call it, and we just have to have the will and desire to come off the ball and cause havoc in the backfield.
He’s very fast, very strong, and very smart. I mean, he went to Columbia. He can do it all. It’s just a matter of opportunity, and getting a chance to rush the passer, and he can prove it.
Martin is a more natural rush end than Moses or Highsmith. That makes him suited to the attacking 3-4 front that the Chiefs run. Expect Martin to stick around ahead of others at the position.
With the team also bringing back Frank Zombo, there won't be room for any more bodies here.
Probably Cut: Kona Schwenke, Jaye Howard, DE/NT
In their first depth chart, the Chiefs listed Jaye Howard as the backup to Allen Bailey at left defensive end. But situation could change before the first wave of cuts.
The arrival of free agents Vance Walker and Jermelle Cudjo makes it a surprise that Howard is rated so highly. Once Walker learns the defense, he should have little trouble warranting a starting role thanks to his superior pass-rushing skills.
Cudjo should have the edge over Howard thanks to his versatility. He can play both end and nose tackle in this scheme.
Cudjo's flexibility, along with the presence of natural 0-technique Kyle Love, should also spell a quick end for undrafted rookie Kona Schwenke.
Cut: Malcolm Bronson, DB
The late signing of a savvy veteran, combined with the performances of an undrafted rookie, means brittle safety Malcolm Bronson will find himself part of the first cuts.
The team recently added former New England Patriots safety Steve Gregory to the mix. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was quick to give Gregory some work during camp, per ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher:
The Chiefs wasted little time in getting newly signed safety Steve Gregory some snaps in practice. Until signing with the Chiefs on Thursday, Gregory was hanging out at home in Syracuse with his newborn daughter.
The Chiefs appear intent on getting a look at two of their developmental safeties, Malcolm Bronson and Daniel Sorensen. But Gregory's experience from his eight years with the Patriots and Chargers may eventually prove valuable.
It's significant that Teicher references Sorensen. The ex-BYU ace has made a great impression during the later stages of camp.
That's something Teicher noted in another report for ESPN:
Backup safety Daniel Sorensen has consistently displayed good instincts and ball skills since joining the Chiefs in the spring as an undrafted rookie. This practice was no different. Sorensen was the day’s star. He intercepted a pair of passes and broke up another.
Interestingly, Teicher also highlighted Sorensen's special teams expertise. A proficiency in football's third phase often ensures a roster spot for fringe players.
Sorensen's form and versatility will likely assure the end for Bronson. He has been unable to stay healthy since entering the league.
The Chiefs need durable and flexible players behind prospective starters Eric Berry and Husain Abdullah. Jerron McMillian is on hand, but the rotation has already received a blow due to the ankle injury suffered by Sanders Commings.
Gregory and Sorensen have a great chance to stick, but the Chiefs won't carry any more safeties.
That's how the predicted first wave of cuts should shape up.
This is always a difficult time to make judgments of this kind. Camp performances, early depth charts and even preseason action don't always rate as solid indicators of players' chances.
However, it's still obvious that Reid and general manager John Dorsey need to trim a few positions, notably at wide receiver and along the O-line.