It’s the time of year we’re all focused on new Kansas City Chiefs players. But of the 90 players now on the Chiefs roster, 39 are returning from the 2018 season. Which ones of those most need to step up in 2019?
It’s time to earn your money
I’m looking at you, Sammy Watkins and Anthony Hitchens.
As many expected, Watkins had trouble staying on the field in 2018. When healthy, even his presence on the field seemed to improve the fortunes of other Chiefs receivers, and his own contributions were often impressive.
But he was off the field for far too much of the time. If he cannot find a way to be more available in 2019, the Chiefs may have to part ways with him in 2020. The structure of Watkins’ contract will make that possible, but not preferable.
Furthermore, we have to be prepared for the possibility that Tyreek Hill will miss at least some games in 2019. Should that happen, the Chiefs will absolutely need Watkins on the field consistently.
Hitchens was healthy in 2018, but was a shell of his former self with the Dallas Cowboys. He seemed hesitant and confused on the field. The popular wisdom is that he was misused in Bob Sutton’s 3-4 scheme — or perhaps didn’t grasp it well enough to play instinctually. Either way, he was not a player to which you’d want to pay $45 million over five years.
Regardless of the cause, he and the Chiefs need to figure it out in 2019.
Hear those footsteps behind you?
The clock is running out for Tanoh Kpassagnon and Gehrig Dieter.
An imposing physical specimen acquired by the Chiefs in the second round (59th overall) in the 2017 draft, Kpassagnon has never lived up to his expectations over two seasons. But as a college defensive end being utilized as an outside linebacker, he also may have been misused in the 3-4 scheme the Chiefs have been running — and also had to play behind Justin Houston and Dee Ford.
2019 will be the critical season for Kpassagnon. Now able to play a more familiar position in Spagnuolo’s 4-3 Under scheme, he has a chance to live up to his potential — as long as he can find playing time. Since the Chiefs have added three free agent defensive ends to the roster, that may be an order as tall as Kpassagnon himself.
Dieter, on the other hand, didn’t come into the league with any expectations. As an undrafted free agent out of Alabama, he wasn’t much more than a fan camp crush until Patrick Mahomes became the starting quarterback.
The two have become close friends, and demonstrated on-field chemistry in 2017 preseason games. After almost two full seasons on the practice squad, Dieter was finally active for the last six games of the 2018 season, during which he caught a pair of passes on four targets.
In any other season, Dieter might be well-positioned to make a bid for a roster spot of his own in 2019. But because of the uncertainty surrounding Hill — and Watkins’ inconsistent availability — the Chiefs have loaded up on wide receivers. At this moment, 13 wideouts are on the Chiefs roster, and that’s seven too many. If Dieter can’t play his way to the roster this season, it will probably mark the end of his NFL career.
What do you think?
Which Chiefs veteran needs to step up the most in 2019?
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