Preseason is always an interesting time for me as I love to speculate on who is going to make our Kansas City Chiefs team. It is amazing how different we all can feel about where in their NFL journey a certain player is. Is he an up-and-comer? Or has his chance to make the team passed him by? For most of us, we can only guess how Hayley and Pioli evaluate the players, but there seems to be certain attributes that these guys must bring to the field. I believe these to be a team first attitude, size, speed, football IQ, ability to play multiple positions, leadership, heart, toughness, talent, and lastly, potential. Can the player get better? Or is it time to move on?
There seems to be a collective thought on AP regarding the philosophy of letting go of players one year too soon rather than one year too late. While that is not always the way it works out, I think it is a good rule of thumb. Pioli has to look at each of our players and decide whether they stay or go. For the most part, you can almost never give up on a rookie. You drafted them for a reason, and typically they need a year or two to "figure it out". So, unless your scouting department really got it wrong, they will always be trending up. This year’s group is no exception. It is from the second and third year players, along with some older vets, who typically make up the special team units. These guys have to work their tails off to make the team, and this is where we find some of the most interesting roster battles.
But how do you know that a player is a few quarters away from having it "click"? Or if they are ever going to figure it out (Ryan Sims anyone)?
Here are some developmental players and where I think they stand:
Jackie Battle - 3rd year player who has some fans. I have to say, early on I rooted whole heartedly for this guy, but he seems to me to have reached his ceiling. Though I love the fact that he is a big back, and has some special teams value, I don’t think we will keep him if they can find another runner with better open field speed. He doesn’t have the burst to do much more than grind out 5 yards, and frankly, we now have McClain to do that. Besides, it is time to start looking for a replacement for TJ. Remember, I am trying to know "when to say when", and for me, it is time to let Battle go. If we cannot find a better developmental back that is cut during the final roster cuts, then he probably sticks.
- Pierre Walters – It impressed me a lot that #97 managed to stick around the roster last year as an undrafted Free Agent, but our overall talent level may be making it harder for guys like Pierre to hang on. We all know that Hali, Studebaker, and Houston will make the team. No doubt. I would also bet money that Sheffield has shown enough to make it. So it comes down to Gabe Miller or Walters (or neither). As valuable as OLBs are, I think you probably carry as many as you can on the roster. But if I had to choose, I would take Miller. Walters looks like an NFL linebacker, but he hasn't really played like one. While Miller, in limited action, shows some nice size and speed for this role. He seems to be the definiton of a good "Developmental Player". Also, I think it is obvious that one of Pioli’s main goals when he came here was to find better athletes to put on the roster, and Miller is one of those guys.
Donald Washington – Love him or hate him, he is one of the more physically gifted guys on the roster, and personally I see a lot of drive in the way he plays the game. He is still listed on the Chiefs website as S/CB, which we know that Pioli just loves. I love his special teams play, but he has looked lost out there in coverage. The safety spot is one of the most competitive battles in all of camp, so I would not be surprised if they cut him. But I think he sticks, for one more year at least. Other guys in the mix at safety are Sabby Piscitelli, Reshard Langford, John McGraw, Ricky Price, and Javes Lewis. Haley said McGraw was a frontrunner, so I would think Langford and Washington round out the safeties. Piscitelli could surprise (no, seriously, the coaches seem to like him).
Quentin Lawrence – The Q himself. Or Mr. Versatility if you would rather. So versatile in fact, I am pretty sure that during timeouts he was passing out Gatorade. If you can make an NFL roster on how many different positions you can play, I would put him on there. But unfortunately, he might actually have to be really good at one. He has flashed, but can he displace someone with more experience at the position like a Travis Daniels? Once again, here is a guy that increases our overall team speed, and so I think he has an excellent chance.
Bobby Greenwood – Like Q, he has made an impressive positional change and in many ways looks like he has some promise. Unfortunately, O line is tough to play even for guys who have done it their whole career, so I would say the deck is stacked against him. I am going to say he falls short, but you still gotta root for the guy!
David Mims – Big, and I mean big developmental O tackle. Mims looks as raw as raw can be. I am not sure how much I can surmise from watching the last game, but Butch Lewis seems to be the second team LT, so my guess is Mims is Practice Squad or bust. If Gaither can complete a practice, he also may push Mims off the roster.What is fascinating about Mims (besides some of the funniest comments I have ever seen on AP), is that based on potential alone, he may be one of the most talented undrafted free agents the Chiefs have ever signed. If this guy ever makes a name for himself in the NFL, then Pioli is truly a Super Genius. Good players always make you look smarter.
Veran Tucker/Jeremy Horne - With the addition of Breaston, and the return of Urban, our Wide Receiver corp is suddenly way more crowded than it was last year. Copper is also a very valuable special teamer who seems to be a "Haley Guy". Where does that leave these two second year players? More than likely on the outside looking in. Unless the Chiefs keep 6 WRs, one of them would have to unseat a wiley veteran like Copper. I don't see that happening, this year.
Dion Gales - First off, does anybody have a good nickname for this guy? I like "Big Trunk", mainly because it rhymes with so many things, but also because this guy has a serious base. How anybody could push him off the line is beyond me. His main problem is that he is unlikely to unseat the DEs in front of him. The addition of Allen Bailey likely keeps him off the 53. That, and there is another undrafted rookie DE who I like better. Brandon Bair could be our new developmental 5 technique DE. At the very least I hope we can hide him on the Practice Squad.
The best part of watching this roster change over the last few seasons, is how much deeper we seem to be. Pioli truly does seem to have a good eye for who "may" become a good NFL player. The hardest part for me is being patient enough to wait and see if they do it. Look at someone like Gilberry, and how he has matured and become a solid pass rushing DE. Studebaker is a developmental player that should get his chance to start if he can hold off Houston, and Darryl Harris is a practice squad guy who may be the first OG off the bench. As a Chiefs fan, I want us to field the best damn roster in the NFL, but as a football player at heart, I want all these young, unheralded guys to just flat out "make it". Good luck fellas.