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June 02, 2005

Preliminary Roster Guesses, 2005 « Kansas City Chiefs »

Every year I try to guess what the final roster is going to look like. I usually have many of the back-ups wrong, and occasionally someone I think is going to start ends up being cut. But I like to make my guesses, anyway. This year is no different, just a little earlier than normal. The backhands to the Denver Broncos are my gift to you, gratis.

But we've got to have somewhere to start. here's the current (training camp) roster for the Chiefs. There are 97 players on that list. Not counting what the Chiefs might pick up after 1 June (probably no one, unless a great DT is available for a cheap price--not likely!), that's 44 players that need to be cut, with 5 of the cut players going on the practice squad. The practice squad is still just 5 players, right?

After doing a few of these, I've found the biggest problem is actually figuring out how many they are going to keep at each position. Every team is different, and sometimes every season is different for each team. KC had so many injuries last season in both WRs and LBs, they really weren't sure what to do. They ended up keeping more LBs on the final roster so as not to cut any that could become healthy, and went into the season with only 5 WRs on the roster, and only 3 healthy and active for the first game. To tell the truth, that pretty much caused the first loss to the Broncos, and sent them into a tailspin they didn't recover from until deep into the season. I hope they don't make that mistake again...but I can't truly call it a mistake, because it was a tough situation to begin with. So I guess I hope they don't have any injury problems that make such choices necessary.

Here, then, are the totals I'm assuming for each position:

K/P/KR 4
QB 3
RB 2
FB 2
TE 3
WR 6
OL 9
DE 4
DT 4
LB 7
S 4
CB 5

total 53

Please note: if I'm off on any of these assumptions right here, it throws off many predictions of who makes the team. But, "He who dares big, wins big", right? All listings are in order, starter to 3rd string, so that's an additional way I can screw up. Woot!

K/P/KR (4): This requires the most explanation, so it comes first. These are the kicking team specialists. Kicker will probably Lawrence Tynes. His kick-offs were good, he missed one important FG, but made at least two others, one a not-easy game-winner (if I remember correctly), so I think he makes the team. Dustin Colquitt makes the team as the punter. Dante Hall makes the team as the PR/KR (obviously), but I think he won't be used much as a WR, so I won't count him as one, even though his talent means he may play up to 10 snaps a game at WR. I left the abbreviation off for long snapper, but Kendall Gammon really isn't NFL-caliber as a TE, but his consistency makes him too valuable to forego.

QB (3): Trent Green, Todd Collins, Damon Huard. No surprises there. Todd Collins always looks decent in the preseason, and does fine in clean-up roles...but Green's durability and Collins' struggles in his first few years as KC's #3 mean that KC isn't 100% sure he can win me, that's why Vermeil insists on a veteran QB for his 3rd String. Casey Clausen was the undrafted rookie last year in camp, was on the practice squad last year, and this year was delagated to NFL-E...but he hasn't exactly been tearing it up there, so it's likely that James Kilian edges him for playing time in training camp and for the practice squad slot. It's just barely possible that Kilian beats out Huard for the 3rd string...but I wouldn't bet on it.

RB (2): Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson. I realize its a gutsy call...but KC carried 3 RBs last year only because they couldn't cut Larry Johnson but weren't sure of him. Now they are. RB is one of the easiest positions for someone to come in off the street and pick up in a short amount of time, so if Priest goes down, they can sign one of the better guys who came to camp, or off their practice squad. Or someone else's practice squad, for that matter. The tough part about this is that it leaves out Dee Brown, who has already been in the league a couple years, and Jonathan Smith, a talented youngster who nearly made the team last year. The 2nd FB last year, Omar Easy, was really more of a 4th RB because he never got that good at lead blocking. Again, another roster mistake I don't think KC will make this year. I'm already talking about FBs because these two positions do blend together, particularly with the players KC has this year. So right on to...

FB (2): Tony Richardson, Robert Holcombe. Both these guys are good blockers (Richardson a Pro-Bowler due to crushing lead blocks), but both can also carry the ball well...both have opened at least one season as the featured back. That flexibility gives KC the chance to go a little thin on the RB position to make room for other positions with deeper talent and more need. Like...

WR (6): Eddie Kennison, Samie Parker, Mark Boerigter, Chris Horn, Richard Smith, Craphonso Thorpe. There's really too much talent here to cut anyone else out. Eddie Kennison had a career-best year. Samie Parker came on strong at the end of last year and by all accounts just picked up where he left off and be a solid starter. Mark Boerigter was looking like a top starter last preseason before he went down with an injury, and I expect him to be fully rehabilitated and take up where he left off; to whit, he's tall and fast and showed excellent hands last preseason. Chris Horn played at a tiny college and shouldn't even be playing at this level; but last year he made a highlight-reel-worthy play at least once each game he suited up--his heart is big enough to make it impossible to cut him and I think he's earned the #4 spot. Richard Smith kicked butt in preseason, but wasn't quite ready for regular season duty. But he's improved this year, and looks ready now. Craphonso Thorpe will have had two full offseasons to recover from his broken leg--by all accounts he is just as fast as before the injury; his sub-par production as a senior scared off many teams, but the scouting reports I've seen seemed to think that was more due to sub-par QB play than Thorpe's ability. We'll see. This leaves off Johnny Morton if he takes a pay cut...he was one of the league leaders last season in moving the chains on 3rd down. It also leaves off Nathaniel Curry, who by all accounts is looking as good as Richard Smith did last year, and leaves off John Booth is having a good year in NFL-E. One or both will probably be on the practice squad.

TE (3): Tony Gonzales (naturally), Kris Wilson, Jason Dunn. The ability of TG may mean KC only carries 5 WRs, I don't know. But the lower string WRs may make the team on special teams ability. Kris Wilson is actually nearly a double of TG: a TE fast enough to outrun LBs, big enough to out-muscle safeties, good hands, and more-than-adequate blocking ability. He won't ever put up TG numbers because he doesn't have TGs All-Pro talent, athleticism, and leaping ability. But he's good enough to make teams pay if they continue to double- and triple TG too much. Jason Dunn has made teams pay somewhat, because he can catch...but his knees aren't good enough to be a full-time pass-catching TE. Still, having these three in at the same time will give Defensive Coordinators nightmares, because they block as well as you'd expect of a three-TE formation, but they can all catch well-enough to consider it a 3-WR formation at the same time. It will be tough to defend. The loss of Kris Wilson in the preseason last year also had a great deal to do with KC's early season tailspin. I don't think there's any way KC carries 4 TEs. I don't remember another NFL team doing so, and so the other 3-4 guys on the roster (all undrafted rookies from minor colleges) are probably just on the roster for training camp practices, although one may make the practice squad for the day when Jason Dunn's knees can't go any more.

OL (9): Willie Roaf, Brian Waters, Casey Wiegmann, Will Shields, Jordon Black, Kevin Sampson, Brett Williams, Chris Bober, John Welbourn. The high number is due both to talent and the age of Roaf and Shields. Kevin Sampson was a surprise last year; drafted to be a project, he nearly challenged for playing time at T. Brett Williams hasn't yet developed into the starting T they hoped he might be, but he's an adequate guard. Bober can play any position on the line except maybe LT, but may be best at C. John Welbourn didn't cut it at RT (although perhaps his knee wasn't fully recovered, I've heard), but is an excellent 2nd string RG or RT. That still leaves out Will Parquet a drafted T, Will Svitek, another drafted T who was called the "Sleeper of the Draft" by some scouts, and Jonathan Ingram, who apparently was ahead of Bober to back up at C. Any or all of those last 3 could be on the practice squad or win a full roster spot...I really don't know enough about OL to know, and haven't heard much.

DE (4): Eric Hicks, Jared Allen, Carlos Hall, Jimmy Wilkerson. The only one I'm not sure of Jimmy Wilkerson. He wasn't playing as well as hoped last year. But Khari Long was drafted too low to be a shoo-in. There's also Montique Sharpe who showed some ability at times last year and NFL-E. There are a few other DEs coming to camp...I think the 4th spot is wide open.

DT (4): Ryan Sims, Lionel Dalton, Junior Siavii, John Browning. Lionel Dalton showed he's still got ability, and was probably the best DT last year. John Browning can play all 4 positions on the DL, and makes the team because of that, but is really little more than stop-gap at any one of the positions. Junior Siavii was coming along well last year before being sidelined by injury from an illegal cheap shot*. Ryan Sims has been adequate..which is a synonym for "mediocre", not what you expect from a 1st-round pick. This year is his final chance, probably, so he has some motivation to finally step up. If not, he may be gone by mid-season. The 4th spot isn't up for grabs, but since this is probably the weakest position on the whole team, a talented veteran cut before the season or a rookie that shows something in training camp could steal the #4 spot.

Some of my information came from this report on the competition for starting spots in KC's back 7:
LB (7): Kendrell Bell (OLB), Kawika Mitchell (MLB), Derrick Johnson (OLB); Keyaron Fox (OLB), Boomer Grigsby (MLB), Gary Stills (OLB), Rich Scanlon (MLB). A weakness last year, this unit has become a strength. Mike Maslowski was the field general two years ago. He called the plays and put people in the right position and had the fire. When he was in, KC led the league in takeaways and won several games for the Chiefs in leading them to a 9-0 record. Then he hurt his knee, the defense fell apart and they went 4-4, losing a home playoff game when the defense couldn't get a single stop against the Colts. They were no better last year as Kawika Mitchell wasn't up to starting at MLB yet. Now Mitchell is playing like a starter, Boomer Grigsby has the right attitude and leadership skills (and makes the team for special teams attitude alone), Rich Scanlon is tearing up the NFL-E at MLB...and Maslowski might be healthy enough to play a full season. What do you do? Cunningham likes fast LBs, and Maz is slow...but his knowledge and instincts mean he usually makes the play, anyway. He blows up screen plays with open field tackles. He never played against Barry Sanders, but had he done so, he might have been the unjuke-able defender. Denver never had any naked bootleg success against Maz. I think Maz doesn't make the team, though. You can't depend on someone whose body could give out at any time, and you don't take away a roster spot from one of the above guys for someone you can't know will last the season. Maybe Maz takes the 3rd spot and Mitchell doesn't make the team because despite his strength and ability, he lacks the passion to be the field general Cunningham needs. It also is shocking to me that Shawn Barber and Scott Fujita might not make the team, but they are injured and I don't see any room for them. We should not forget, as well, that Barber and Fujita and Mitchell were all Greg Robinson's choices...Fujita struggled under Cunningham last year, and they both missed tackles and whiffed on plays, contributing directly to the poor defense performances. Gary Stills makes the team because he is a special teams pro-bowl player, and can always play as a pass-rushing DE, even if he doesn't play LB as well as someone who doesn't make the team. I just don't think you ever cut pro-bowl players if they still have ability, and Stills does, uh, still.

S (4): Sammy Knight, Greg Wesley, Jerome Woods, William Bartee. Painful cuts here. We had some good play from some young guys last year. Shaunard Harts forced some turnovers two years ago, and improved last year...but may not make the team. Willie Pile might not have the ability to be in position to make a play as often as Jerome Woods...but when he was in position, he never whiffed. Scott Connot was an undrafted RFA last year who actually made it on the field a few times as Cunningham got desparate...and like Pile, he didn't blow it when he was in position. When tackling is your problem (and it has been for 2+ years), you really shouldn't cut sure tacklers like Pile and Connot. One of the two, or Harts, may make the team if Woods age and old injury have taken their toll...but bringing in Knight appears to have lit a fire under both Wesley and Woods, and I think they both will look excellent. Bartee never made it as a CB...mainly because he never stopped playing like a safety. He did a great job whenever he was asked to cover the receiver out of the slot, because he didn't have to turn his back to the QB. He is a sure tackler and can lay a mean hit...well, he was a Safety that the Chiefs wanted to turn into a CB. But he retains CB speed, and learned to cover adequately, if never consistently enough to be a starting corner. So I have to give him a roster spot based on his ability to be a tweener: a safety that can cover like a CB in running situations, or a nickel back that can lay a punishing hit on a slot receiver in a passing situation.

CB (5): Patrick Surtain, Eric Warfield, Dexter McCleon, Benny Sapp, Alphonso Hodge. The only reach in this bunch might be Dexter McCleon, because he struggled so badly last year at times. Surtain and Warfield are locks. Sapp came in as an undrafted rookie and earned playing time, and didn't disappoint. He is a rising talent who has a good chance of winning the nickel back spot, although his height may prevent him from rising higher on the depth chart, and may prompt Bartee playing nickel in some situations (as I mentioned). The scouting report on Hodge makes him sound like Deion Sanders (lock-down corner who shies from contact), although without the INTs...and the OTC report referenced above makes it sound like he's fulfilling that description. If the coaches have lost confidence in McCleon (who is also short, and a holdover from Robinson), Justin Perkins may grab the last spot based on his reportedly excellent showing in the OTAs. Julian Battle is probably out, I can't see KC keeping him over these other talents and prospects. That probably pleases hardcore Denver fans to no end.

*By someone on the Denver really couldn't be any other team/player, could it?

Posted by Nathan at 02:31 AM | Comments (2)

Local radio is reporting that Johnnie Morton will be cut later today, so the Chiefs can save $3 million against the cap.

It also reported a rumor that the Chiefs are interested in signing Freddie Mitchell.

Posted by: j.d. at June 2, 2005 06:32 AM

I didn't include Morton on the final roster because I believe he won't take a pay cut, nor will he resign with the Chiefs.

On the other hand, I doubt KC will sign Freddie Mitchell. "Character" is of the utmost importance to Vermeil, and Mitchell just doesn't seem to fit the character Vermeil usually wants. He's being let go, in part, because of his locker-room disruptions.

Posted by: Nathan at June 2, 2005 09:35 AM