With a lockout-shortened NFL preseason, players have reporting to training camp are expected to be able to return to the speed of the NFL game. They are left with only a matter of weeks to prove themselves. For a player to make a roster, they will need to prove themselves early and show that they deserve a spot on the final team, a difficult feat after months without any professional practices or preparation.
For the 2011 rookie class, this task is even more difficult.
These players are expected to be able to prove that they can move to the pros with ease, and to make it past the roster cuts, these players almost have to arrive in training camp ready to go. While it may seem early to look at the play of these rookies, a week can make all the difference to the coaching staff making these decisions.
The Kansas City Chiefs have 23 rookies in training camp hoping to have a spot in the locker room when week one rolls around. While some rookies, such as wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin and Defensive End Allen Bailey, are guaranteed an NFL paycheck, others are forced to fight tooth and nail for one of the few remaining spots on the roster.
After two weeks of training camp, some rookies are able to stand out while others have been slow off of the starting blocks. Here are the grades they have earned thus far. While most of these players will be able to prove their abilities better in the preseason games, a lack of performance in the preseason drills could cost them a job come September.
Jonathan Baldwin, Wide Receiver: Baldwin has the potential to be a superstar in the NFL. Drafted in the first round, there is no questioning where Baldwin stands at the end of training camp.
Unfortunately, he has been a slow starter. While Baldwin has impressed coaches with his work ethic and shown that he is willing to work, a sore hamstring has slowed his development. This development is important as training camp has shown Baldwin dropping passes or, even worse, tipping the ball in a way that would allow for an interception. This slow start could knock Baldwin down the depth chart, possibly having him as a fourth receiver early in the season. C+
Rodney Hudson, Center: Hudson is viewed as the center of the future and has fallen into that role very well. With veteran Casey Wiegmann in place as the starting center this season, Hudson has been learning what he can from Wiegmann’s play.
Hudson will get some time in the season, possibly at guard, but his main job right now is to learn the NFL game. He seems to be doing this. B+
Ricky Stanzi, Quarterback: One of the main issues that caused Stanzi to fall all the way to the fifth round in the NFL draft was his decision making. The same thing has been shown in training camp with Stanzi struggling early on. While his physical talents are evident, Stanzi is lacking the ability to make decisions quick enough to be an NFL quarterback.
With Tyler Palko currently performing better than Stanzi, he is likely to be the third string quarterback unless he shows an ability under pressure during the preseason games. C-
Shane Bannon, Fullback: Bannon’s job got much harder with the signing of Le’Ron McClain, a former all-pro fullback. To get carries out of the crowded Kansas City backfield, Bannon has to prove himself early. Unfortunately, he has not shown enough to be considered as a potential backfield threat.
If Bannon makes the final cut, he will likely be on special teams. To get any carries, he will have to prove a lot in the preseason games. D+
Lucas Patterson, Guard: After playing on the defensive side of the ball at Texas A&M, Patterson has moved to the guard position for Kansas City. This move has put him behind many of the other guards, a move that could cost him a spot on the final roster.
Patterson has a lot of ground to make up but he looks like he may be up to the challenge. He definitely will not be a starter, but he could see some time on the field if he performs well against the Chiefs‘ preseason opponents. C-
Charlie Gantt, Tight End: Gantt was viewed as one of the best undrafted free agents on the market by several NFL pundits because of his catching and blocking abilities. Unfortunately, only one has shown up so far.
Gantt has shown that he can block fairly well but he has dropped more than his fair share of passes thus far. While Gantt was not a threat to the job of Tony Moeaki, right now he is not a threat to any other player either. D
Butch Lewis, Guard/ Tackle: Lewis has come into to training camp prepared and it shows. Lewis has shown a good amount of speed, getting to blocks on running plays. With a running offense like the Chiefs, this could earn him a spot on the roster. If Lewis is able to translate this to a game situation, he should be there for week one. B
David Mims, Tackle: With his imposing size, Mims could very well be an NFL lineman.
He has shown that, with work he could very well make a huge difference on the line. Mims will not be starting anytime soon, but he could very well end up at the bottom of the depth chart. C-
Several players have not done enough to separate themselves from their competition. With a great deal of players at this position, it is nearly impossible to rate their efforts before they see any action in a preseason game environment. While these players have not been a disappointment, they will need to show more to make the final roster.
Chris Manno, Wide Receiver: N/A
Zeke Markshausen, Wide Receiver: N/A
Josue Paul, Wide Receiver: N/A
Chris Harr, Tackle: N/A
Mike Ingersoll, Tackle: N/A
Justin Houston, Linebacker: Being the last draft pick to sign a contract has hurt Houston in the early part of training camp.
Houston has shown his speed and during scrimmages has given trouble to the Chiefs starting offensive line. Despite this, he is still very raw and will need time to develop into a starting linebacker. For now, he looks to be a situational player. All of that can change, though, with a strong showing during the preseason games. B
Allen Bailey, Defensive End: Bailey is quickly climbing up the depth chart early in training camp.
With strong showings during workouts, Bailey looks like he is second to Tyson Jackson on the depth chart. If Jackson continues to be a disappointment, Bailey’s playing time looks to grow and, if he is able to continue to show his ability to get into the backfield, he might be able to take Jackson’s job by season’s end. A
Jalil Brown, Cornerback: So far, Brown has done a good job of showcasing the talent that made him a Kansas City draft pick.
In scrimmages, Brown has caused a lot of problems for quarterback Matt Cassel, doing a good job of breaking up passes. With a great deal of talent in the defensive backfield, Brown will be fighting for playing time when the season rolls around, but with a strong showing in the preseason matches, he could increase his playing time. B
Gabe Miller, Linebacker: Despite being considered the less talented of the linebackers drafted by the Chiefs, Miller has shown his worth thus far.
Miller is doing a good job of rushing on the edge, beating several of the younger tackles. While he is not going to be stealing anyone’s job, he could very well earn some playing time if he can prove that this rushing talent can be applied to more experienced defensive lines. C+
Jerrell Powe, Nose Tackle: With the signing of Kelly Gregg, Powe has moved from a potential starter at nose tackle to student of a much more experienced veteran.
Powe is having a strong camp and at this point looks like he could be Gregg’s backup when the season rolls around. This is hinging on his performance the rest of camp, but Powe may have been a steal in the sixth round. B-
Brandon Bair, Defensive End: Bair is showing his ability to use his long arms and get to the quarterback early in this training camp.
Bair is definitely one of the players who will find themselves on the bubble all camp, but if he is able to adapt what he has shown in training camp into a real game, Bair is a player who could find himself on the Chiefs’ roster working towards a bigger role in future seasons. C+
Much like the Chiefs offense, there is a backup of players at a couple of positions. These players will have a lot to prove when they are able to face a real NFL offense. If they are unable to produce in this situation, they will be cut quickly.
Amara Kamara, Linebacker/ Defensive End: N/A
Javes Lewis, Cornerback: N/A
Mario Russell, Safety: N/A
Demond Washington, Cornerback: N/A