The Kansas City Chiefs return to the gridiron tonight for the first time since their postseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Following their 30-7 loss to the Ravens, the Chiefs learned a lot about themselves and realized they have a lot of room to grow.
General manager Scott Pioli knows there are some players on the roster who need to step up and also sought players from free agency to bulk up the team.
Going into Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there are five players who will be under the spotlight. Earlier this week, I wrote an article highlighting five areas fans should keep an eye on for Friday’s game. This article will feature five players who were not mentioned earlier this week.
Since being drafted out of the University of Alabama in 2007, Le’Ron McClain spent his first four seasons with the Ravens. McClain made an impact and helped the Ravens finish in the top five in rushing in 2008 and 2009.
In 2008, McClain showed off his rushing skills by collecting 902 yards on the ground and is also responsible for helping Ray Rice finish eighth in rushing in 2009.
Coming to Kansas City, McClain joins a top ranked rushing offense. How can the best rushing team improve? The Chiefs have a lot of options and could take the rushing title as a team for the second consecutive season.
Keep an eye on McClain and see how he helps Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster when they carry the ball. McClain may also carry the ball himself a couple of times in his Chiefs debut.
This offseason, the Chiefs made no effort to find an offensive right tackle to replace Barry Richardson.
Thursday morning, reports came out that the Chiefs signed former Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither, who could help build depth with Branden Albert starting at left tackle.
Like everyone else on the Chiefs offensive line last season, Richardson contributed in helping Kansas City place first in the league in rushing. However, he struggled picking up defenders against the pass-rush.
This preseason will be crucial for Richardson and it starts tonight against the Buccaneers. If Richardson makes progress at the offensive tackle position, he’ll return as the starter.
If he struggles and takes a step back, then there is speculation that Albert could switch and start at right tackle while Gaither takes over the left.
Coming out of college, Tyson Jackson entered the draft as the best 3-4 defensive end and was the first draft pick selected by the new regime. However, Jackson has made little progress in his two years with the Chiefs.
This season could be a make-or-break year for Jackson as this is his last opportunity to prove himself before getting labeled as a first-round bust.
Jackson, who was selected third overall in 2009, suffered an MCL sprain and missed three games. Jackson recorded his first career sack last year against the San Diego Chargers.
Teammates Glenn Dorsey and Wallace Gilberry have made more progress at the 3-4 defensive end position in the last two years and if rookie Allen Bailey can impress the Chiefs coaching staff, this could be Jackson’s final season in KC.
The Chiefs haven’t had a decent interior defensive tackle since Bill Maas in the 1980s. With the departure of Ron Edwards, the Chiefs signed former Ravens nose tackle Kelly Gregg and Chief fans are hoping Gregg can bring some flashbacks of Maas this season.
Although the Wichita, Kansas native is 34 years old, Todd Haley is impressed with his size and stature and feels he can help the Chiefs and provide leadership on the defensive line.
In his Chiefs debut, Gregg will work with defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant. Expect Gregg to get a lot of face time against the Buccaneers.
Derrick Johnson turned his career around in 2010 by leading the team in tackles for the first time in his career. He recorded career highs in tackles and pass deflections and tied a career high in forced fumbles.
Despite Johnson’s success last season however, no one who stepped up at inside linebacker for the Chiefs.
Pioli recruited Brandon Siler, who started games for the Chargers for the first time in his career in 2009. After starting zero games in 2007 and 2008, Siler started 11 games in the past two seasons combined. Siler also managed to register three sacks in those two seasons and intercepted one pass.
Linebackers coach Gary Gibbs hopes that Siler will provide more depth while rotating with Jovan Belcher. It’s possible that Siler wins the starting spot over Belcher if he exceeds expectations in the preseason.