Roster Analysis: Kansas City Chiefs

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Here is an in-depth look at the Kansas City Chiefs as they prepare for their season-opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, 1 p.m. (ET)

QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Alex Smith. Backups - Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray.
This is the position that has been completely remade by the new regime at Arrowhead Stadium. Last year, Smith was in San Francisco, Daniel in New Orleans and Bray at the University of Tennessee. Head coach Andy Reid has always liked Smith and the abilities he brings to the table and has admitted that he tried to trade with the 49ers several times to get the former No. 1 NFL draft choice to Philadelphia. Smith has quickly won over his K.C. teammates and is already the offensive leader. He's mobile and smart, and Reid believes that will limit the turnovers at that position that have plagued the Chiefs in recent seasons.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters - Jamaal Charles (RB) and Anthony Sherman (FB). Backups - RB Knile Davis, RB Cyrus Gray.
Given his past in Philadelphia it's no surprise Reid has what would be considered a minimum number of running backs on his first Chiefs roster. Reid loves to throw, and his backs are going to be part of that passing game. Charles has worked hard at being consistent as a pass catcher; there's no disputing his ability to run once he's holding the ball. Davis needs to improve in that area like Gray has from his rookie season in 2012 to this one. Sherman will be on the field for about 30 percent of the offensive plays and is reliable as a blocker and catcher.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Anthony Fasano. Backups - Travis Kelce, Sean McGrath.
The loss of Tony Moeaki for the season due to a fractured shoulder was a blow to the Chiefs offense. When healthy, Moeaki provided a good pass catcher with solid blocking skills. Fasano was signed from the Dolphins and will fill the starter's position. Kelce came in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft and he's been inconsistent in training camp and preseason games, plus he's had to deal with injuries. Just how waiver claim McGrath fits in with the offense remains to be seen.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery. Backups - Dexter McCluster, Junior Hemingway, A.J. Jenkins, Chad Hall.
Bowe will need a big year to justify the $53 million deal he got from the Chiefs in the offseason. Avery was signed this season as a free agent and brings a speed element, but his career has been up and down because of spotty hands. The rest of the group is ordinary at best and remains the one portion of the roster that the former regime led by GM Scott Pioli and the current group led by GM John Dorsey have not solved.
OFEFNSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Branden Albert, LG Jeff Allen, C Rodney Hudson, RG Jon Asamoah, RT Eric Fisher. Backups - G/T Geoff Schwartz, G/T Donald Stephenson, C Eric Kush.
The starting group is one of the youngest in the NFL for the coming season as they go 28, 23, 24, 25, and 22 across the front from left tackle to right tackle. They are also all home grown talents, selected with premium draft choices: Albert and Fisher in the first round, Allen and Hudson in the second round and Asamoah in the third round. Important this year is experienced depth with Schwartz and Stephenson; that's something they did not start the 2012 season with and it cost them when Hudson suffered a broken leg in the third game and was done for the season.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LDE Tyson Jackson, NT Dontari Poe, RDE Mike DeVito. Backups - DE Allen Bailey, DT Anthony Toribio, DE Mike Catapano, DT Jaye Howard.
The defensive front has not been very productive for the Chiefs since they moved to the 3-4 scheme in 2009. They tend to give up too many rushing yards and provide little or no pass rush from the defensive end and nose tackle spots. Poe had a solid rookie season and has returned in better shape and will play in a defensive scheme more suited to his explosive, north-south style. Jackson took a pay cut to stay with the Chiefs and only makes any of his money back if he has a big year. DeVito was signed because of his familiarity with coordinator Bob Sutton from the Jets and his run-stopping talents. The depth is shallow.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - SLB Justin Houston, MLB Akeem Jordan, ILB Derrick Johnson, WLB Tamba Hali. Backups - ILB Nico Johnson, OLB Josh Martin, OLB Frank Zombo, OLB Dezman Moses, ILB James-Michael Johnson.
With three Pro Bowlers among the starting four, the Chiefs first linebacker group is as good as any in the league. Hali is coming off what for him was a poor season, while Houston had a breakthrough performance in 2012 and Derrick Johnson is the leader of the unit and continues to be a playmaker. Jordan will open the season as the starter at middle linebacker, but it's only a matter of time before draft choice Nico Johnson takes over. Waiver pickups Moses and James-Michael Johnson have elevated the talent on the second level at the position and will help on special teams.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Brandon Flowers, RCB Sean Smith, FS Kendrick Lewis, SS Eric Berry. Backups - CB Dunta Robinson, S Quintin Demps, S Husain Abdullah, DB Sanders Comings, CB Marcus Cooper, CB Ron Parker.
This is the defensive position that has been rebuilt by the new regime, although Flowers, Lewis and Berry are holdovers. All of the backups however, have joined the team this season, including 10-year veteran Robinson who was pegged for the nickel-back job. But he has been passed by Abdullah, who has shown good ability taking the slot receiver in coverage. Cooper and Parker were waiver claims after the roster cut to 53 and how they fit with the unit remains to be seen.
SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Ryan Succop, P Dustin Colquitt, LS Thomas Gafford, KOR Quintin Demps or Knile Davis, PR Dexter McCluster.
Colquitt enters the season after earning a Pro Bowl berth last year and a new contract that made him the highest paid punter in league history. Coordinator Dave Toub can't wait to use Colquitt's directional kicking ability and those left-footed knuckling punts that returners have trouble handling. Succop is solid on FGs and kickoffs; he was nine-for-nine in FGs over the preseason. Demps and Davis both had kickoff returns for touchdowns in August, but McCluster has not broken a long return off since his first NFL game in 2010 when he went 94 yards for a touchdown.

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