Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

June 9, 2014

NFL: Competition for jobs with Chiefs already tight

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There might as well be a sign propped up on the road outside Arrowhead Stadium that reads ''Casting Call,'' considering the number of jobs that are up for grabs.

There's the spot at free safety that opened up when Kendrick Lewis hit free agency. There are the spots along the offensive line that cleared when Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah all signed elsewhere on the same day. And the spot on the defensive line that opened up when Tyson Jackson, a former third overall draft pick, chased the free-agent buck to Atlanta.

Sure, there are favorites to win those jobs, but right now none of them appears to be set in stone, which has made for some spirited competition during voluntary offseason workouts.

''Oh yeah, every snap they get,'' coach Andy Reid said. ''(General manager) John Dorsey has done a great job of bringing personnel that generate competition. Good personnel. There are some spots. Really, everybody should feel that, every spot should feel that.''

Some more than others, though.

Husain Abdullah was signed almost as an after-thought last year, but he impressed the Chiefs front office so much in limited time on defense and extensive time on special teams that he was brought back this year. Now, he appears to have the edge on that free safety position.

He's getting pushed by a host of talented, largely unproven players. Sanders Commings was a fifth-round pick who missed last season with a broken collarbone, and Phillip Gaines was a third-round pick this year that could slide into the spot from his more natural cornerback position.

''We have several guys that are working in there,'' defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. ''We're trying to develop competition. Compete against yourself, compete against the other guys and nobody should be satisfied with whatever level of position you're perceived to be at.''

That adage could apply just the same to the offensive and defensive lines.

Albert had held down the left tackle position the past six seasons, playing last year on the franchise tag. But he became too expensive for the Chiefs and wound up signing a $47 million, five-year deal with Miami, creating an opening on quarterback Alex Smith's blindside.

The Chiefs believe they have the solution to that problem in house after drafting Eric Fisher first overall. He played at right tackle last year and will slide to the left side this season, and that will press Donald Stephenson - a former third-round pick - into action on the right side.

Stephenson has proven to be a dependable backup the past two seasons.

The bigger concern is at offensive guard opposite Jeff Allen, where Schwartz and Asamoah split time last season. Jeff Linkenbach was signed as a free agent and Rishaw Johnson and Rok Watkins are back from last season, but none of them appears to have much of an edge.

''A bunch of guys are competing to show us what they can do,'' offensive line coach Andy Heck said. ''We've got a great group of guys here working their tails off.''

Things are a little more settled on the defensive line, where the departure of Jackson was somewhat assuaged by the signing of veteran Vance Walker in free agency. But even he will be pushed throughout the summer and into the fall by Allen Bailey and a host of other candidates.

Then there's the tight end position, where the question is not whether anybody will step into the void but who will be left out when it comes time to trim the roster.

Anthony Fasano and Sean McGrath appear assured of spots on the roster, which means the Chiefs might have to cut loose Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris or Richard Gordon.

Kelce missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury that has continued to keep him out of offseason workouts. Harris is still raw, considering he played basketball rather than football in college. And while Gordon is the most experienced, he also may have the lowest ceiling.

''We're excited as a staff to really see Kelce getting back out there at some point,'' offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. ''The emergence of Demetrius Harris, he's a tremendous talent. He mixes in there with those guys. They're having a good offseason.''



 

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