Kansas City Chiefs training camp begins at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri, on Monday with the quarterbacks and rookies taking the field. Training camp opens to the public Thursday of this week, and you can check out that full schedule here.
Here are the top five Chiefs position battles to watch ahead of camp:
Honorable mention: Fourth cornerback
The current favorite: wide open battle
Candidates: Tremon Smith, Will Redmond, Keith Reaser, Arrion Springs, Ashton Lampkin, Makinton Dorleant, D’montre Wade
What we know: The Chiefs have loaded up on some intriguing talents at the cornerback position to build the depth of the roster. During his pre-draft presser, general manager Brett Veach singled out both Reaser and Redmond (we profiled him here) as guys not to sleep on in the secondary. That was before the Chiefs added two more intriguing prospects into the mix with sixth-round pick Tremon Smith and undrafted free agent Arrion Springs.
Reaser has previous experience playing in regular-season games with the Chiefs. Redmond was a highly-regarded talent coming out of the draft who has been plagued with injuries. What little early returns that have come out of the offseason with Smith and Springs have been positive.
Prediction: Tremon Smith. I’ll go with Smith, by a hair, over Springs. Both remain in the mix as the fourth and fifth corners on the roster heading into Week 1 in Los Angeles. Reaser and Redmond remain in contention for the final spot on the roster. If Redmond shows he’s healthy, he wins out. (—Kent Swanson)
5. Third quarterback
The current favorite: Matt McGloin
Other candidates: Chase Litton
What we know: The quarterback is the most important position on any football roster, and what is great for the Chiefs is their No. 1 and No. 2 are locked in with Patrick Mahomes and 10-year NFL veteran Chad Henne, respectively. It is never fun to think about, but look no further than last year’s Super Bowl MVP to remember how vital a roster’s backup quarterbacks can be for a football team.
The Chiefs’ No. 3 battle is between Chase Litton, who signed with the Chiefs after he went undrafted out of Marshall in the 2018 NFL Draft, and Matt McGloin, a five-year NFL veteran who started his career with the Oakland Raiders before spending time with the Eagles and Houston Texans last season. You may recall McGloin’s name from the 2016 season. McGloin was the first to fill in for Derek Carr after he suffered a broken fibula in Week 16, but a shoulder injury the next week ended McGloin’s shot at starting in the postseason.
Prediction: Matt McGloin. My choice is the 28-year-old McGloin, the difference being that McGloin has seven more career starts to his name than Litton. There is value in being there before, especially at the quarterback position, and I feel that wins out despite Litton having a higher upside than McGloin. On Litton’s draft profile, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein called Litton “a rhythm passer who will need a task-master at quarterback coach who can improve his pre- and post-snap plan so that he can become a more efficient, trustworthy quarterback.” That sounds a lot like Andy Reid, so even though Litton may not make the roster, expect him to either make the practice squad or grab the coveted Tyler Bray honorary injured reserve spot. (—Pete Sweeney)
4. Third wide receiver
The current favorite: Chris Conley
Other candidates: Demarcus Robinson, De’Anthony Thomas, Jehu Chesson, Marcus Kemp, Gehrig Dieter, Daniel Braverman, Byron Pringle, Blake Mack, Elijah Marks, Jordan Smallwood, Josh Crockett, Eli Rogers (?)
What we know: That there are a ton of IFs for every single contender in this battle. IF Chris Conley can come back from a torn Achilles, IF Demarcus Robinson has been able to process the game quicker, IF Jehu Chesson has developed trust, IF Eli Rogers is signed and returns to previous form. We could go on and on.
The third receiver is likely going to be spending some time in the slot this season. You would expect Sammy Watkins to play as the X receiver (typically isolated backside of the formation), Kelce as the Y (tight end) and Hill as the Z (outside receiver to the strength of the formation).
Prediction: Chris Conley. Conley is the best receiver in this group. He has experience playing multiple spots and can be trusted to handle the primary slot role. Conley would be a bigger slot receiver, which could be a huge asset for a young quarterback to have a big catch radius on underneath and middle of the field routes. (—Swanson)
3. Second running back
The current favorite: Charcandrick West
Other candidates: Spencer Ware, Damien Williams, Kerwynn Williams, Darrel Williams
What we know: Even though this is the No. 3 battle on our list, it could be the most interesting battle of Chiefs training camp. Charcandrick West was the Chiefs’ No. 2 running back last season, and he appears to be in the best shape of his life ahead of a contract year. Spencer Ware, who started last year’s Chiefs training camp as the No. 1 running back, returns to the team after missing all of last season with a rare PCL-and-LCL injury. He has looked fantastic this offseason, but don’t be surprised if he starts camp on the PUP list. Ware is in the same boat as West when it comes to his contract.
Then there are the Williamses. Damien, Kerwynn and Darrel all have a shot at this, too. The Chiefs didn’t want to be in the position they were last year, when they only wound up keeping two running backs at the 53-man roster deadline. They have beefed up the competition this year by signing veterans Kewynn, who spent the last four years with the Arizona Cardinals, and Damien, who spent the last four years with the Miami Dolphins. Kerwynn edges Damien when it comes to career rushing yards per attempt (4.5 to a lousy 3.6), but Damien offers more when it comes to the receiving game—he has 85 career receptions for 733 yards. Darrel is the wild card, a priority undrafted free agent out of LSU, who shockingly chose to join the Chiefs’ crowded running back room. Kent put together a great review of Darrel here.
Prediction: Charcandrick West. I think the Chiefs stick with West here because I’m not 100 percent Ware is going to be ready to go. West is a favorite of now-offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy because of his willingness and ability to pass block, an area starter Kareem Hunt struggled with as of the end of last season. I also think a healthy, established player on a contract year is always a good situation, and that’s exactly what West is. (—Sweeney)
2. Starting right outside linebacker
The current favorite: Dee Ford
Other candidates: Tanoh Kpassagnon, Breeland Speaks
What we know: Oh boy. The Chiefs have three bodies to throw out on the EDGE this year, but all of the come with serious question marks. Ford hasn’t been able to stay healthy or be productive in the run game. Kpassagnon was raw and unproven last year and there are big question marks surrounding the second-year player’s consistency and readiness. The Chiefs have a plan for Speaks, but he’ll be transitioning to a full-time outside role and is a rookie.
I could make an argument for this as the top battle in camp this year. The Chiefs need production and there are reasons all these guys could fail to rise to the occasion.
Prediction: All of them. This is a true committee. Speaks gets the early down work, Ford is a situational pass rusher and Kpassagnon adds depth. I just haven’t seen enough of any of these guys to believe that any of them will take hold of the position and leave the other two in the dirt. A committee is the best answer for this group, anyway. They all have some skill sets that can help the team, but none of them are enough to this point to be trusted with the lion’s share of the work. Let’s hope Speaks and Kpassagnon come along quickly, or this will be a lingering concern for 17 weeks. (—Swanson)
1. Starting left guard
The current favorite: Parker Ehniger
Other candidates: Ryan Hunter, Bryan Witzmann
What we know: Left guard is not a sexy position to talk about, but it probably is the most important battle of Chiefs training camp. As originally referenced by ESPN and Chiefs Digest, the Chiefs are likely moving on from last year’s starter at left guard in Bryan Witzmann, with Parker Ehinger and Ryan Hunter sharing snaps at the top spot at Chiefs OTAs.
Ehinger started four games for the Chiefs at left guard in 2016 before tearing his ACL. Ehinger said he felt like he did before the injury in September of 2017, but he only saw action in one game for the Chiefs last season—Week 17 at right guard—when the Chiefs played mostly backups. Hunter is a Canadian undrafted free agent out of Bowling Green who the Chiefs coaching staff seems to really like. Kent called Hunter “probably the best offensive line project on the roster” in his lottery ticket review.
Prediction: Ryan Hunter. Watching some of his tape from college, Hunter fits the bill of what Andy Reid likes in offensive linemen when it comes to agility and ability to get out in space. His ceiling could be higher than Ehinger’s, and I think when the Chiefs visit Los Angeles on September 9, Mahomes will be starting with two Canadian guards protecting him. (—Sweeney)