Okay, so we hear it all the time. Phrases like "finding the right 53" or "building depth on the team" or "creating competition" always seem to find their way out of coaches and general managers' mouths these days. This goes for Dorsey and Reid as well. So, in putting this new staff under the microscope, let's take a look at just what they have done to back up these statements since February.
Starting with the offensive line. They have subsequently replaced Winston with Fisher. Now, I realize that Albert may yet be traded - I'm of the belief that they may very well take a look at Bess from the Dolphins along with some combination of 2014 picks - but as of now, he's still a Chief. And he may very well be moved to the right side, but that is not the point I'm trying to convey. We replaced an offensive tackle with a definite upgrade in Fisher.
Lilja and Hochstein were subsequently replaced on this roster with Schwartz and Kush. In addition, Kelly and Hawkins have been brought in for competition from the UDFA signings to provide competition to Mattison, Patterson and Waldron. Even by default of a healthy Hudson and a full year under Allen and Stephenson's belts, the Chiefs already look to be improved here.
At Quarterback, we know exactly where we stand. It appears as of now that Bray, Stanzi, Tanney and Crist will be competing for the 3rd spot on the roster. So, it really comes down to whether Daniel is better than Quinn and Smith better than Cassel. For those wanting a developmental QB, getting Bray will keep you more than interested. The kid has the physical tools. Now if Reid and Pederson can improve him between the ears, we may have something here. Regardless, after what we saw last year, on paper the Chiefs really can't do any worse here. Can they?
In the backfield, we said goodbye to Hillis, who had 85 attempts, 309 yards (3.6 ypc) and more fumbles than TDs (2 to 1). Honestly, that production shouldn't be too hard to replace. Draughn and Gray were statistically better, albeit with fewer attempts. Now they've added Davis, Lacy (UDFA) and Roberts (UDFA) to the group behind Charles. Since they have so many additional fullbacks, I would guess they end up keeping three RBs and two FBs this fall. This means there is TRUE competition within the group. My guess is that Davis gets the nod over Draughn and Roberts, pushing one to the practice squad and we end up with two very nasty fullbacks out of the deal.
I don't see McCluster factoring in the running game like the past couple of seasons and the Chiefs will utilize a package for him exclusively in the passing game, less a few reverses here and there. On paper, the Chiefs are tracking to improve here.
Now for the Tight Ends. Gone are Boss and Maneri. Fasano is essentially the replacement for Boss and Kelce the replacement for Maneri. Don't be surprised if the real completion now is between Brock, Knowles (UDFA) and Moeaki for the 3rd spot in camp. My guess is Moeaki better show them something in St. Joe or he could actually be a casualty. Thinking about that for a minute shows you just how much the Chiefs have improved this group.
At the wide-out position, re-signing Bowe, as we all know, was huge this offseason. Baldwin is looking like camp Superman again this year. Avery was targeted QUICKLY by Reid and Dorsey this offseason, which shows they really wanted him as a replacement for Breaston. So if Baldwin can improve and Avery brings more to the team than Breaston (how can he not after last years fiasco), then there will be improvement. The reserves like Copper, Hemmingway, and Newsome will be competing with newcomers Gilyard, Shoemaker, Bellamy, UDFAs Stonum and Richardson.
Depending on how the roster shakes out, McCluster and Wylie could very well be competing against one another, should the Chiefs decide to keep only one small wide-out on the team. While I do believe both make it, there is no doubt that Wylie will have to figure out a way to stay healthy to show what he's really got. Regardless, there should be some good battles and competition out of the group this summer. Just the addition of Avery alone makes this unit look improved on paper.
On the defensive line, gone are Dorsey, Pitoitua and Smith. Enter Dixon, Muir and DeVito, all with ties to our new DC Sutton. These guys will understand the new scheme. Whether or not they are upgrades are yet to be determined in my opinion - although I do really like DeVito's lunch pail style of play. There were several defensive ends, along with DT Stanley, added today as UDFAs. But I don't know enough about them to say whether they are tweeners or not. In my opinion, this unit will be most improved if Bailey can live up to his physical abilities and the continued improvement of Poe. Competition will be there, but the jury is still out on this group. Like most, I was hoping for at least one, mid-round draft pick to compete with these guys. But I digress...
Now we move along to the linebackers. We lost Belcher to tragedy, released Studebaker and didn't re-sign Siler. Jones and Greenwood were retained, but more for their special teams work. Enter Johnson, Jordan, Diles, Zombo, Catapano, Kilgore, UDFAs Opurum and Drakeford to the mix. Let the competition begin boys and girls. Like the defensive line, the jury is still out on the improvement here. But in a perfect, injury-free world, the Chiefs will only be looking to replace the combination of Belcher and Siler's production from last year. They should be both better and deeper at the end of the day with this group.
I'm going to lump the defensive backs all together, as there are so many tweeners here it's hard to keep track. We know what we have in Flowers, Berry and even Arenas. Unfortunately we also know what we have in Lewis and used to have in guys like Routt, Daniels and Elam. We have a fair amount of young players that were retained for camp. Along with Arenas and Lewis, guys like Menzie, Brown, Thorpe and Hartman now find themselves competing for a spot with Smith, Robinson, Abdullah, Gumbs, Commings, McDougald (UDFA) and Jones (UDFA). This unit got a HUGE boost this offseason, no two ways about it. Anytime your starting corners Brown and Arenas go at least two spots down the depth chart, there should be a high degree of optimism there from the fan base.
Finally we get to special teams. There is yet to be any competition for Succop and Colquitt (the latter of which needs none), and we even signed our long-snapper Gafford back for another campaign. Outside of that, the makeup of the final unit will be determined only after fierce completion ensues this summer. So many return options. Avery, Davis and Wylie have speed to burn. McCluster and Arenas are still possibilities as well. No doubt Toub is already looking to find his next Hester out of this group.
All of the better blocking and tackling contributors from the prior regime still remain. Jones, Copper, Greenwood, et al. But they will find themselves in fierce competition with these new linebackers, defensive backs and wide-receivers coming in. While the Chiefs were serviceable last year on special teams, they surely weren't "special" outside of Colquitt and Gafford. That's simply not good enough in today's NFL. I trust Toub will assemble a very good unit and hopefully they add some spark and excitement this fall.
In closing, to go back where it all started. Dorsey and company have most definitely been very busy this offseason. On another thread, I spelled out just how they had replaced many of the free agent departures just with the eight picks in the draft. In retrospect, I realize it is difficult to believe them when they use the other in-phrases of the NFL. Stop me if you've heard "we're going to stick to our board" or "you get in trouble when you don't select the BPA" ad nauseam.
This draft did reek of drafting to fill need. But that said, I do now believe them when they said they were going to improve the depth and add competition to this football team. The preceding breakdown by positional group has definitely shown that. One thing is for sure, it's shaping up to be a helluva good training camp coming up this summer.