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Kansas City Chiefs enter 2014 with new starter next to Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker

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With the Kansas City Chiefs 2014 training camp schedule kicking off soon, we are previewing the KC Chiefs 2014 roster by position. Up today are the inside linebackers.

Jamie Squire

The players

Derrick Johnson, Joe Mays, Nico Johnson, James-Michael Johnson, Ben Johnson, DeRon Furr.

DJ and Mays are locks to make it to September. It's a solid bet the Chiefs will keep nine linebackers, with four or five coming from the inside. If any of the other guys are markedly better on special teams, they will stick.

MoreRead our 2013 Chiefs ILB preview

What's changed

The only notable difference is Akeem Jordan is out and Mays is in. Mays is well-known as a thumper, someone who can lay some serious wood. Will he make a big difference? Hard to say, but he probably has more upside than Jordan.

The big question

Will this finally be the year that Derrick Johnson slows down? (Please knock on wood) Johnson has been to three consecutive Pro Bowls and has been perhaps the best all-around inside linebacker in football (this Chiefs fan says). At age 31 and 10 years in the league, does the former first-round pick begin to decline?

Best case scenario

Johnson continues to be a force of nature, while Nico Johnson and James-Michael Johnson develop into solid rotational guys and core special teams players. Mays thrives in Bob Sutton's defense and provides Kansas City with a tough run defender.

Worst case scenario

Age finally catches up with Derrick Johnson. With a declining star in the middle of the defense, teams begin to attack him knowing there is no capable backup, as JMJ and Nico Johnson don't take steps forward. Mays doesn't fit into the defense, and it becomes obvious his stay in Kansas City won't be long.

Random Facts

  • Mays is the man who hit Matt Schaub so hard, he ripped part of his ear off.
  • Nico Johnson is a winner, having won three national championships with Alabama
  • Derrick Johnson's middle name is O'Hara