Kansas City Chiefs 2014 Virtual Program: Depth Chart Analysis, X-Factors & More
The 2014 preseason and training camps are finally complete, and all 32 NFL teams have trimmed their rosters to 53 players. In less than a week, the Kansas City Chiefs will play the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium for their season opener.
It will be Andy Reid's second season as the head coach of the franchise after a successful 11-5 season that revamped the team and the fanbase.
Can the Chiefs duplicate that success going into 2014? Let's look at the 53-man depth chart and preview the team before its first game.
Alex Smith, Chase Daniel and Aaron Murray (rookie)
When Tyler Bray suffered an injury against the Green Bay Packers in the preseason finale, it made it easy on the coaching staff to pick its three quarterbacks.
Alex Smith, who just signed a new four-year deal, according to Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star, is a quarterback general manager John Dorsey and Andy Reid are happy with after trading multiple second-round picks for him.
The team appears to be comfortable with Chase Daniel as the primary backup in case Smith goes down or if the coaching staff wants to pull Smith out. Although Aaron Murray is a fifth-round pick, he has a bright future if he works on his craft and carries over his success from Georgia to the NFL.
Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, De'Anthony Thomas (rookie), Cyrus Gray and Joe McKnight
Fullback: Anthony Sherman
There shouldn't be any surprises with this list. Jamaal Charles is the obvious starter and will have some reliable players behind him to help carry the load.
Knile Davis and De'Anthony Thomas are both scatbacks with great breakaway speed. After how impressive Charles looked under Reid's offense, Davis and Thomas can use their speed to have similar success when given the chance, as it will benefit the offense in the long run.
This is one of Kansas City's best position units with Charles, Davis and Thomas, but Cyrus Gray and Joe McKnight played well in the preseason and may see a few touches throughout the year.
Anthony Sherman was Kansas City's best fullback since Tony Richardson during the Dick Vermeil coaching era in Kansas City. Sherman was an asset as a blocker last season, creating holes and leading the way for Charles. He also can come through as a pass-catcher.
Anthony Fasano, Travis Kelce and Demetrius Harris
If Travis Kelce catches the ball in the open field with defensive players a few yards away from him, watch out. As we saw twice in the preseason, Kelce can run like a wide receiver and will get plenty of yards after a catch. His entire rookie campaign ended after one week due to a knee injury, and he has had a lot of time to recover.
Anthony Fasano missed seven games due to injury but quietly played well when he caught three touchdowns in nine games.
Last year, injuries derailed the team's tight ends, as Kevin Brock and Sean McGrath became the primary tight ends. The Chiefs hope to avoid the injury bug in 2014, as Fasano and Kelce have a lot of potential as a duo.
Donnie Avery, Junior Hemingway, Albert Wilson (rookie) A.J. Jenkins and Frankie Hammond
Currently suspended (1 game): Dwayne Bowe
The five players currently listed on the depth chart for wide receiver is not a strong bunch. It is hard to analyze this group, as it was quiet all season long and stepped up in Charles' absence in the postseason game, scoring 44 points.
Can this group play just as well with Jamaal Charles on the field at the same time? The receivers and Alex Smith proved they can do it. With Charles, this offense can be unstoppable.
Frankie Hammond had an impressive preseason, and we will soon see if he can do well in a regular season game. As a backup, Junior Hemingway pulled through and has built his way up the depth chart.
The Chiefs have been desperate for a good No. 2 receiver for years. They might have one in Donnie Avery.
Once Dwayne Bowe returns, the Chiefs offense will be held to higher standards.
At the same time, even with the idea of these players reaching their potential, they will need help from the offensive line.
Left tackle: Eric Fisher
Left guard: Jeff Allen, Jeff Linkenbach and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (rookie)
Center: Rodney Hudson and Eric Kush
Right guard: Zach Fulton (rookie) and Mike McGlynn
Right tackle: Ryan Harris
Currently suspended (four games): Donald Stephenson, right tackle
This group makes a lot of Chiefs fans nervous—especially after it allowed 16 sacks in the preseason, the third most throughout August.
The Chiefs have a lot of potential on offense, but the team will only go as far as the offensive line takes it.
Eric Fisher is already receiving the bust label from a lot of Chiefs fans after an abysmal rookie season, when he allowed 8.5 sacks and committed six penalties. Although he is switching back to his original position at left tackle, he showed no signs in the preseason that he would do better.
With Donald Stephenson suspended for four games, Ryan Harris takes over at right tackle as sixth-round rookie Zach Fulton leads the team at right guard.
Jeff Allen has filled in a few times as an offensive lineman, but Rodney Hudson is the only returning starter who will play the same position he played last year. The rest either switched positions or will be primary starters going into Week 1 for the first time.
Not an encouraging group, but you have to hope that Andy Reid will have this group ready. Otherwise, the amount of success the offense could have will turn into a wasted season.
Left defensive end: Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard
Nose tackle: Dontari Poe and Vance Walker
Right defensive end: Mike DeVito and Damion Square
Pro Bowler Dontari Poe leads a strong defensive line after the front seven terrorized opposing quarterbacks and was the key reason for the 9-0 start. Despite the loss of Tyson Jackson, Allen Bailey will be given an opportunity to start and has had flashes of promise since joining the league in 2011.
Mike DeVito was a serviceable defensive end during his first year in Kansas City and hopes to have a bigger hand in helping the defense.
Jaye Howard and Vance Walker both had impressive preseasons, and we can expect to see them get significant playing time when they rotate with the starters.
Outside linebacker: Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Dee Ford (rookie), Frank Zombo and Josh Martin
Inside Linebacker: Derrick Johnson, Josh Mauga and James-Michael Johnson
Currently injured but expected to return: Joe Mays, inside linebacker
The Chiefs are stacked with talent at this position unit with Pro Bowlers everywhere.
Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston got a lot of praise for the team's 9-0 start with their sound and stout defense. In addition, the Chiefs added Dee Ford in the first round of the draft to help an already powerful pass rush.
When the Chiefs need to rotate Houston or Hali out, Ford will step in and be expected to continue applying pressure.
Both Houston and Hali had 11 sacks in 2013. There will be plenty to go around, as all the defenders will be hungry to take down opposing quarterbacks.
It will be interesting to see if this group can limit scores when it faces Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady.
Johnson has rose over the past couple of seasons and is not only a leader but now considered one of the best linebackers in the game today. He needs just 19 tackles to reach the 1,000-tackle mark for his career, which would also have him surpass Gary Spani as the all-time leading tackler in franchise history.
Cornerback: Marcus Cooper, Ron Parker, Chris Owens, Sean Smith and Phillip Gaines (rookie)
Strong safety: Eric Berry and Daniel Sorensen (rookie)
Free safety: Husain Abdullah and Kelcie McCray
Eric Berry leads a very young secondary with many new faces. The group has some veterans in Husain Abdullah, Chris Owens and Sean Smith, but it will primarily be led by some of the younger guys.
Marcus Cooper had a very impressive rookie season after being cut by the San Francisco 49ers before the regular season. Cooper came to Kansas City and impressed a lot of Chiefs fans. But who else at cornerback will step up? And can Cooper continue doing what he did last year?
Outside of Berry, no one else stands out with experience and the ability to make a strong impact. However, this group has something that not many defensive backs have in the league: a reliable front seven.
The front seven will apply a lot of pressure, which forces quarterbacks to throw ill-advised passes. That creates plenty of opportunities for defensive backs to collect some easy interceptions.
Kicker: Cairo Santos (rookie)
Punter: Dustin Colquitt
Long snapper: Thomas Gafford
Kick returner: Knile Davis, Albert Wilson (rookie), De'Anthony Thomas (rookie) and Frankie Hammond
Punt returner: De'Anthony Thomas (rookie) and Frankie Hammond
It shouldn't be a surprise to many that Ryan Succop was cut. He was below the league average in field-goal percentage, as he was inconsistent throughout his career with the Chiefs and didn't live up to his contract. The Chiefs think they have a better kicker in Cairo Santos and got him for a smaller price.
Dustin Colquitt continues to be one of the top punters in the league.
As for the return specialists, Knile Davis returns, but the Chiefs have some new players stepping in for Dexter McCluster. The Chiefs seem to have found a replacement for McCluster in De'Anthony Thomas, who showed off his punt return skills in his first punt return of the preseason when he went for 80 yards.
RB Jamaal Charles
Had it not been for Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs wouldn't have started 9-0 and would have missed the playoffs. He was responsible for nearly 37 percent of the offense and was the top scorer among all non-kickers. He will have another big season under Andy Reid.
RB De'Anthony Thomas
The Chiefs will be involved in some low-scoring games where the defense stands strong and the offense may struggle. De'Anthony Thomas might show some flashes of Dante Hall and will need to come through in clutch moments for the Chiefs.
WR Dwayne Bowe
I am taking a bit of a gamble here, but I think Dwayne Bowe turns things around this season. He showed what he is capable of after he had eight catches and 150 yards against the Colts in the postseason. That is the Dwayne Bowe everyone wants to see on a consistent basis.
NT Dontari Poe
Dontari Poe had a very quiet rookie season but came through with a big second season under Reid and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Like Vince Wilfork in New England, Poe will have a similar impact.
OLBs Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford
I had to put these three together. They are part of the same position unit, and the Chiefs have three key players here. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali did a lot of damage last year. With Dee Ford, opposing quarterbacks will need additional blocking from tight ends, fullbacks and running backs. Although stamina can tend to be a problem in the league sometimes, the Chiefs will have Ford fill in when needed.
Good luck trying to block these guys for four quarters.
ILB Derrick Johnson
Derrick Johnson is the leader of this defense. He's one of the more fortunate linebackers as he has talented players beside him as well as reliable teammates on the defensive line and in the secondary.
S Eric Berry
With the exception of missing the 2011 season due to injury, Eric Berry has been a reliable safety since entering the league in 2010 and quickly went up as one of the best defensive backs in the league. With Brandon Flowers gone, he is the head leader of Kansas City's secondary.
Last year, even with the soft schedule, critics thought the Chiefs would be an 8-8 team. But the Chiefs surpassed those predictions, going 9-0 to start the season.
The credit goes to Andy Reid. He took a 2-14 football team and changed five starters on offense and three on defense. To keep a majority of your starters, with quarterback being the biggest change, and deliver an 11-win season is no easy task.
It is clear that coaching was the issue in 2012. Reid changed the culture and the attitude.
There are some major concerns with the offensive line going into this season, and fans fear it could hold the team back from winning. While those concerns are valid and fans have a reason to feel that way, you have to keep in mind that Reid is the head coach. He's been around the game for a long time. Last year, he did the unexpected and turned the worst NFL team into the last unbeaten team.
Reid also has great assistants in offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and special teams coordinator Dave Toub.
The Chiefs had players from all three facets voted into the Pro Bowl, and a lot of the credit goes to the coordinators for their coaching.
Sept. 14, Week 2 at Denver
Last year, the Chiefs and Broncos did not play each other until after the midway point of the season. This year, the two teams will face off in Week 2, as both teams want an early lead in the AFC West.
Sept. 29, Week 4 vs. New England, Monday Night Football
This night has the potential to be the biggest night in Chiefs history. It is Monday Night Football against one of the best teams in football today. On top of that, Chiefs fans will reattempt to take back the Guinness world record for loudest stadium in the world.
Nov. 16, Week 11 vs. Seattle
Playing the defending Super Bowl champions is the game every fan will circle on their calendar. Last time the Chiefs played a team coming off a Super Bowl win was in 2011, when the Chiefs defeated the 13-0 Green Bay Packers going into the game with 5-8 record, a new head coach and a new quarterback. Can they continue their success against defending Super Bowl champions this year?
Nov 30, Week 13 vs. Denver, Sunday Night Football
The Chiefs have never defeated the Broncos since Manning joined Denver. The two teams played last year on Sunday Night Football, which the league changed a couple of weeks beforehand, with the game being played in Denver. This time, the two teams will play Sunday Night Football in Kansas City.
Considering that this will be late in the season, this will be a highly anticipated Sunday Night Football game, as both teams will be fighting for a strong finish and a push to make the playoffs.
Most Valuable Player: RB Jamaal Charles
Jamaal Charles lifted the Chiefs last year and looks to have a big impact again to help the team.
Most Improved Player: WR Dwayne Bowe
Dwayne Bowe did not have a 100-yard game during the regular season in 2013, as his only one came in the postseason. If he can be consistent and play at a high level, he'll be tabbed as one of the best receivers in the league in 2014.
Rookie of the Year: RB De'Anthony Thomas
The Chiefs have a secret weapon in De'Anthony Thomas, who fell to them in the fourth round of the draft. Thomas will be an explosive threat on offense and special teams, which a lot of defenses won't see coming.
Prediction: 11-5, Wild-Card Spot
The Chiefs do have a more challenging schedule with the Patriots, Seahawks and 49ers on their schedule, in addition to playing the Broncos and Chargers twice. But the Chiefs still have a lot of winnable games on their schedule and may drop a game they are expected to win. With the mindset that Reid will have the offensive line ready for the season, the Chiefs will live up to their potential. A lot of the questions about the offensive line will be answered real soon. If they do well early, Chiefs fans will breathe at ease.