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Stagner Things: Revisiting the roster bubble before final cutdowns

Let’s take another look at the players we thought were on the roster bubble during OTAs — and some other players who have popped up since then

During OTAs, we talked about five Kansas City Chiefs players that we thought were on the roster bubble — given the team’s acquisitions and in-house development.

As roster cuts loom, now we’ll take one last look at those five guys — and others that might have played their way on to (or off of) the roster bubble.

1. Tremon Smith

The Chiefs and Dave Toub clearly wanted to find a way to keep the speedy cornerback/running back/wide receiver/kick returner — or else they wouldn’t have wasted time trying him out at multiple positions. Unfortunately, he hasn’t distinguished himself on offense or defense; he just isn’t getting significant reps. As the team tries out other players like De’Anthony Thomas, Mecole Hardman and Bryon Pringle at the returner jobs, the window may be closing for Smith.

2. John Lovett

A shoulder injury derailed a promising preseason for the undrafted rookie. On Tuesday, he landed on injured reserve. There’s still an opportunity for backup tight ends on this team — and Lovett showed he can catch and play special teams — so perhaps he’ll be part of the solution next season.

3. Reggie Ragland

There was some concern with how he would fit in the new defense — especially considering how slow the Chiefs linebackers looked last season. Would there really be a way to use a guy like Ragland? Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has mixed the linebackers up in some surprising ways — including Ragland at SAM (outside strong side) linebacker — so it could just be that we were wrong in what we expected to see. I’m still not ready, however, to completely remove Ragland from the bubble. Thus far, Darron Lee and Ben Niemann have been fairly impressive, which could reshuffle the group. If Lee moves up, it could be that Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson are the other starters — and Ragland’s role could shrink to the point where he doesn’t make the cut. He’s probably on the roster — but we’ve been surprised before.

4. Cody Thompson and Jamal Custis

Perhaps many of us overestimated the importance of big signing bonuses for undrafted free agents. Custis made headlines (and was declared by some to be a roster lock) just because of his paycheck. Unfortunately, he’s been completely silent in the preseason and training camp; he appears to be a long shot for the roster. In contrast, Cody Thompson has been the team’s leading receiver in significant snaps during the preseason, taking advantage of injuries to Gehrig Dieter and Marcus Kemp to make his best case for the roster. In a crowded wide receiver room, Thompson is no lock, but he’s earned his bubble status — and gained a lot of new fans in the process.

5. Darrel Williams

The excitement about the running back position has focused on Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson, while the negativity has centered on Carlos Hyde. But this week, Darrel Williams was finally able to make his move this with some impressive work against the 48ers. If Hyde was the primary competition for Darrel to make the roster, it would appear that Darrel has surpassed him. Hyde didn’t get into the game until late — which isn’t a great sign for him, given that it was the dress rehearsal. So at this point, it seems Hyde is more on the bubble than Darrel.

Others who have played their way on (or off) the bubble:

Herb Miller

On the positive side: according to our own Craig Stout, Herb Miller has gone from being a relatively unknown player to competing with Charvarius Ward for a starting job. As Craig noted, Miller has some limitations when it comes to deep speed, but on a team desperate for answers at cornerback, he has proven to be a preseason playmaker. While not yet a lock to make the roster, Miller has certainly done all he can do to win a job — and challenge for playing time.

Cameron Erving

On the less-positive side: Erving has struggled in his presumed role of backup offensive tackle. The coaches gave him another chance with reps as the starting left guard on Saturday. Does that mean that Erving is now the starter and Andrew Wylie is now the backup? Not necessarily. It could mean that the Chiefs are giving Erving one final audition — either for the Chiefs or for another team. Factor in the addition of Jeff Allen on a largely guaranteed contract, and the Chiefs have the depth on the interior to let Erving go — especially if they can find a backup tackle this week...

Rashad Fenton

Thus far in the preseason. Miller — and to a lesser extent, Mark Fields and D’Montre Wade — have been the visible standouts from the bottom of the cornerback depth chart. Fenton, a 2019 draft pick, has been conspicuously quiet — at least until the 49ers game. So far in his first NFL camp, Fenton has been working as the backup nickel corner but hasn’t generated much buzz at all. It’s easy to assume that draft picks will make the roster — especially at a position of need — but it’s not uncommon for sixth or seventh-round picks to end up on the practice squad. If the Chiefs feel they have other options, Fenton might not make the initial 53.

Emmanuel Ogbah

Another quiet player through camp and the preseason has been Ogbah, who was acquired in the blockbuster Eric Murray trade. Ogbah fits the mold of the big-bodied defensive end who can play inside in certain packages — and was likely to have a fairly safe roster spot in hand — but he hasn’t made a lot of noise. With Breeland Speaks’ injury, Ogbah could be one of the guys expected to step up and contribute.

Dorian O’Daniel

Many of us thought that O’Daniel would thrive — perhaps even become a starter — in the new Spagnoulo defense. But as training camp and preseason have pressed on, O’Daniel has found himself buried on the depth chart. If Hitchens or Wilson become the starting WILL — and Lee is the first guy off the bench in subpackages — that pushes O’Daniel to third-string at best. It also seems Niemann has made a strong case for the 53-man roster as a guy with legitimate linebacker instincts (and speed) who is also a top special teams contributor. With the 2019 Chiefs, I’m not exactly sure where O’Daniel’s opportunity lies.

Blake Bell, Deon Yelder and Nick Keizer

The No. 2 tight end position isn’t settled yet, but it’s getting close. At this point, Blake Bell is getting the full run — especially given the injury to Deon Yelder, and he’s looked pretty good in the process overall. Bell shouldn’t buy a house in Kansas City or anything, as this position could see some additional movement during roster cuts.

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