Five Position Battles To Watch for with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009

Neil PowellCorrespondent IMay 15, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 02:  Mark Bradley #83 of the Kansas City Chiefs throws a pass against Tanard Jackson #38 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their NFL game on November 2, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Buccaneers won 30 to 27 in overtime. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Rebuilding is tough.  That's what fans of the Kansas City Chiefs would say about the past few seasons.

The Chiefs have not won a playoff game for 15 years and owner Clark Hunt felt like it was finally time for some major changes.

Long-time VP/GM Carl Peterson was pushed out and head coach Herm Edwards was fired as well.

Hunt hired New England's Scott Pioli as GM, Arizona Cardinals' offensive coordinator Todd Haley as head coach and traded for starting quarterback Matt Cassel.

The Chiefs have brought in many other new faces including Mike Vrabel, Zach Thomas, Bobby Engram, Monty Biesel, and selected Tyson Jackson in the first round of the draft. 

Kansas City also traded legendary tight end Tony Gonzalez to the Atlanta Falcons and in doing so, broke thousands of hearts across the midwest.   

With all the new faces on the roster, it's pretty obvious which players are going to be the starters going into the 2009 season.

Upgrades at the quarterback, wide receiver and line backer positions have created only a few apparent spots that will be decided in the preseason. 

Here's a list of five intriguing position battles going into the 2009 season:

NOSE TACKLE (3-4 Defense): Glenn Dorsey vs. Demarcus "Tank" Tyler

Glenn Dorsey: 6'1", 297, Drafted No. 5 overall in 2008 , Louisiana St., Age 23.

2008 Season: 46 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 16 games started.

'08 Review: The Chiefs used a very high pick on Dorsey, passing on players like Jared Mayo, Joe Flacco and Chris Johnson, but didn't quite get the plays expected in doing so.  Dorsey did nothing to prevent NFL teams from running wild on the Chiefs last season.

Fast Fact:  Dorsey is one of NCAA football's most decorated defensive linemen ever.  In 2007 as a Junior, he won the Lombardi, Outland, Bronco Nagurski and Lott awards, as well as being selected First Team All-American for the second straight year.

Tank Tyler: 6'2", 306, Drafted Third Round 2007, North Carolina, Age 23.

2008 Season: 41 tackles, no sacks, 16 games started.

'08 Review:  "Tank" started every game last season for the Chiefs.  That's about it.  What's written above about Dorsey applies to Tyler as well.  Maybe they were allergic to the backfield?

Prediction: Tyler's size fits the new, 3-4 defense better, but the organizations' investment in Dorsey will no doubt give him an advantage.  Look for a 70/30 split.

Fast Fact:  Tyler was selected First Team All-Acc in 2007 recording 89 tackles.  


WIDE RECEIVER (No. 2 Option)  Bobby Engram vs. Mark Bradley

Bobby Engram:  5'10", 192, Drafted second round 1996 (Bears), Penn St., Age 36

2008 Season:  47 receptions, 489 yards, no touchdowns, 11 games started.

'08 Review:  After a injury plagued 2008 season, it's hard not to wonder how much the 36 years old Engram has left in the tank.  In 2007, Engram had a monster season with 74 for 1147 and six touchdowns. In '08 he never saw pay-dirt.  Engram spent 2001-'08 in Seattle and played for the Bears the four seasons prior. 

Fast Fact:  In 1994, Engram was the go-to receiver for the undefeated Nittany Lions, won the first ever Biletnikoff Award and is the school's all-time leader in touchdowns and yards.     

Mark Bradley:  6'2", 198, Drafted second round 2005 (Bears), Oklahoma, Age 27

2008 Season: 30 receptions, 380 yards, three touchdowns, eight starts.

'08 Review: Bradley was a second round pick by the Bears, but could never find any playing time in his first couple season there.  In '08, he was cut by Chicago and picked up in Week Seven by the Chiefs.  He played pretty well as the second receiver in the offense.

Fast Fact:  Bradley was a big part of the most memorable play of the 2009 season for the Chiefs. In week nine against Tampa Bay, Bradley hit quarter back Tyler Thigpen for a 45 yard touchdown on a wide receiver reverse-pass. 

Prediction: Although by no means a game-breaker, Bradley will look around him and like his chances to see a lot of playing time again in 2009.  If healthy, Engram should have at least a semi-productive season. He will benefit more from a lack of talent at the skill positions, than his own at this late stage in his career. 

PLACE KICKER:  Connor Barth vs. Ryan Succop

Connor Barth:  5'11", 193, Undrafted 2008, North Carolina, Age 23

2008 Season:  10-12 field goals, 24-24 extra points.

'08 Review: Barth was cut in the preseason in favor of Nick Novak only to replace later in week eight. Showed some accuracy, but hit for a long of only 48 yards.

Fast Fact: In week 15 against rival San Diego, Barth had his only two misses of the season. The second was a potential game-winning 50 yard attempt.

Ryan Succop:  6'3", 221, Drafted round seven 2009, South Carolina, Age 22

2008 NCAA Season:  20-30 field goals.

'08 Review: Succop had a 66.7  field-goal percentage last season for the Gamecocks. At 6-3, 221 he could possibly be used as a sixth line backer.

Fast Fact: The 2009 "Mr Irrelevant" selection (last player drafted), scored 104 goals as a soccer player at Hickory High in North Carolina. 

Prediction:  A pretty boring position to evaluate, but it will be an important one for the Chiefs as they learn a new offense.  Barth did rather well after taking the job in midseason and should retain the position.

If Succop could put some accuracy with is big leg, he could definitely make it interesting. 

TIGHT END:  Brad Cottam vs. Tony Curtis

Brad Cottam: 6'7", 269, Drafted third round 2008, Tennessee, Age 24

2008 Season: 7 receptions, 63 yards, 16 games, seven starts.

'08 Review:  With the name Tony Gonzalez ahead of you on the depth chart, it's going to be hard to evaluate how good a rookie tight end could be. Tony is gone now and spending a year under the future Hall of Famer will only help Cottam in securing his turn at the top. 

Fast Fact:  Had four catches for 34 yards in week eighth start.  At 6'7", Cottam will also come in handy at local charity basketball games. 

Tony Curtis: 6'5", 251, Undrafted 2005, Portland State, Age 26

2008 Season:  8 receptions, 32 yards.

'08 Review:  Curtis was also looking up at a future Hall of Famer in Jason Witten while playing for the Cowboys the past three seasons.  Featured primarily in the goal line and short yardage packages, he should at least fill the same role for the Chiefs in 2009.

Fast Fact: Curtis had three receptions in the 2007 season.  All for touchdowns. 

Prediction:  The competition at this position will be closer than most anticipate. Cottam is widely anticipated as the guy, but I feel like Curtis will compete to the last preseason game. Either way, the Chiefs will use three wide receiver sets under coach Todd Haley so blocking may be the top concern.

Center: Eric Ghiaciuc vs. Rudy Niswanger

Rudy Niswanger:  6'5", 301, Undrafted 2006, Louisiana St, Age 25

2008 Season:  15 games started.

'08 Review:  Niswanger started all but one game last season and was re-signed as an unrestricted free agent this off season.

Fast Fact: While at LSU, Niswanger earned a 4.0 GPA and was accepted to medical school.

Eric Ghiaciuc:  6'4", 303, Drafted forth round 2005 (Bengals), C.Michigan, Age 23

2008 Season, 16 games started.

'08 Review:  "G" started every game in 2008 for the Bengals, increasing his four-year total to 42 with the team. 

Fast Fact:  As a wrestler at Oxford High in Michigan, Ghiaciuc won the heavyweight state championship. 

Prediction:  Neither the Chiefs or the Bengals had much of a running game to speak of in 2008 so predicting who will be the starting center is a question mark.  It's hard believe that Kansas City would have signed Ghiaciuc without intending on starting him.


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