Simple exercise: guess the depth chart on opening day. 53 players.
Your thoughts, welcome.
All I can say is that the leap from Herm to Haley, in terms of talent on the roster, has been quantum. I know I'm not alone when I say I've caught the fever again.
QB: Cassel, Croyle, Gutierrez
Teams almost always keep three QBs on the team. The question to me isn't whether Croyle will upset Cassel (only a madman would give a player who physically can't handle an entire season the starter job), but will Thigpen survive the cut down to the 53-man roster?
My guess is no. New coaches mean more than new starting quarterbacks; they mean new quarterback philosophy. Haley and Pioli want a quarterback in Cassel's vein, and Gutierrez -- whose connection to Pioli, Chris and Joel will tell you, is enough to pencil him in -- fits that model far better than Thigpen. His success in the preseason doesn't matter -- teams cut successful preseason performers constantly. It's whether you fit the system, and Thigpen does not. He will be scooped up within hours.
RB: Johnson, Battle, Charles, Williams
I think Battle has looked great in camp and in the preseason. The buzz is all about him performing the best of any RB on the squad. I think his body allows him to take a lot more touches in a game, too, should Two-Sev go down. Charles is a situational guy, no more. Savage makes this team as a special teamer, if he makes it at all; you cannot keep a slow 170-pounder who can only run up the middle.
WR: Bowe, Toomer, Bradley, Engram, Copper
I know Lelie is the new hot thing right now on Chiefs blogs everywhere, but the guy is a warm body. Engram and Toomer were the vets this team wanted, a combination of talent (Toomer especially) and veteran influence (Engram especially). Lelie offers little -- he is not a particularly outstanding character guy, nor is he all that talented.
Instead, I think the team keeps Copper and Lawrence. Copper is a Haley guy who works his fanny off and deserves the recognition for it. Lawrence is in the driver's seat for the kick returner job, and I think he'll end up on the practice squad if he doesn't land it.
TE: Cottam, Ryan, O'Donnell
The great unknown. Not only is this probably one of the closer battles at River Falls, but it's also one of the least reported. For what it's worth, Cottam's measurables and talent seems to completely overshadow those of all his competitors. (Full disclosure: I'm a Cottam homer.) But Ryan has apparently worked the way Haley likes it this offseason, so Ryan's run with the 1s... but then I see his sad performance last week and I see brick hands and inadequate blocking.
I simply believe Cottam's the better talent here, and that logic will win out in the end. O'Connell is probably practice squad material.
LT: Albert, Taylor
LG: Waters, Smith
C: Niswanger, Ghiaciuc
RG: Goff, Brown
RT: McIntosh, Richardson
This is probably the least controversial slotting on the entire team. Richardson running with the 1st notwithstanding, I can't see the guy starting this year. With a brand new franchise QB, you've got to put McIntosh in for his superior pass protection. But the great news for Richardson is that coming out of the draft, the consensus about Richardson two years ago was that he sported 1st round measurables with zero motivation. Herm failed to light a fire under him, but Haley managed to get Richardson to drop more weight than any other player -- so Richardson may be rising to the occasion.
DE: Dorsey, Magee
NT: Tyler, Edwards
DE: Jackson, Boone
I think the biggest question mark on this entire team, outside of Matt Cassel, is that nose tackle position for the Chiefs. Edwards simply got beat up at the point of attack against the Texans, whereas Tyler was slightly more stout, but still pretty much manhandled. It's a coin flip at this position, so I'm giving it to Tyler, even though I'm guessing his performance in the classroom is the exact opposite of what Haley is looking for.
OLB: Hali, McBride
ILB: Thomas, Mays
ILB: Johnson, Beisel
OLB: Vrabel, Studebaker
Not a lot of controversey here, either, and I think a lot more Chiefs fans are feeling slightly optimistic about this position after the first preseason game. Any worries that Vrabel wouldn't buy in after all this time away from the team were erased. Hali played fairly well. Studebaker and Mays proved that the Chiefs even have quite a bit of depth handy. The biggest question mark this season remains to be McBride, who in my opinion will look incredibly out of place at OLB. You'll hear this from me all season, but I think McBride's build was perfect for DE on this team, so I have no idea what he's doing here.
CB: Flowers, Carr, Leggett, Daniels, Washington
The backend of the CB roster, as it always does, will simply come down to who wants it more on special teams. As far as that goes, I haven't the foggiest. I can tell you that Leggett is all but assured a roster spot, and I like Washington and Daniels tons more than I do Colclough.
S: Page, Pollard, Brown, McGraw, Morgan
Will Brown surpass Pollard on the depth chart? Well... he should. But in my opinion, Bradley should surpass Toomer at WR. But continuity in the starting lineup is important in a 16-game season, and Brown doesn't have it. I think Brown will get a significant number of snaps, and may start a couple games this week when Pollard inevitably finds a way to disappoint. It's hard to believe the Chiefs will keep five safeties, I simply list both McGraw and Morgan here because I think they're both solid special teamers.
KR/PR: your guess is as good as mine
At this point, the only true unknown on this entire team is returning kicks. At this point I don't think you can count on Lawrence keeping the job, but the options of who would replace him is void of possibilities. Perhaps Savage will stick around after all.