Starting With The Defense … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

The clock is ticking on the start of the 2010 Chiefs season.

The team will have a walkthrough practice on Wednesday, play the Packers on Thursday at Arrowhead Stadium and then face the job of taking a 75-man roster down to 53 spots. They must get that done by 5 o’clock on Saturday afternoon.

Today, there are probably 45 of the 53 spots that the coaching staff can fill without much discussion. Every team hopes the last eight or 10 spots on the roster will generate a lot of internal debates, because that’s an indication of the competition that’s gone down in the pre-season.

As Scott Pioli and Todd Haley and their staffs get together and start slicing and dicing the roster, injuries will play a factor. Essentially most teams fill out the 53 slots with 25 on offense, 25 on defense and three specialists. But some key injuries can tilt the distribution of the numbers without that 25 or even force taking a spot or two form offense to help the defense or vice-a-versa.

Over the next two days we are going to provide the lay of the roster land, or at least the look from our eyes after watching every practice of the pre-season and every play of three exhibition games. Coming today is the defense and there are three different levels in our guess work evaluations:

  • RED means they are a lock to make the roster.
  • BLACK means they are sitting in a good position.
  • BLUE means they are on the bubble.

Here’s the defensive side of the roster; Thursday we will bring you the offensive side.

With each position are the range of slots that group should have on the final roster. I’ve also listed the players at each position in a ranking of where I think they stand within the group.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6 or 7)

  1. DE Glenn Dorsey – He needs to take another step forward in his development. This is year No. 3 and Dorsey should be ready to take it up a notch. Although he is still playing out of position in the 3-4 scheme, Dorsey can be effective anchor on that side of the defense.
  2. DE Wallace Gilberry – Next to Tamba Hali, the Alabama product is the best pass rusher on the roster. Gilberry has worked hard at improving his overall play and he’s nudging against Tyson Jackson for a spot to play in the base defense.
  3. NT Ron Edwards – A journeyman type on the nose, he’s still the best man for that position on the roster. If he helps get the job done on first and second down, he doesn’t have to play so many snaps.
  4. DE/NT Shaun Smith – There’s seldom a doubt that Smith is on the field each day, because he’s the loudmouth on the team. Sometimes that type of guy is necessary to keep the stress-level under control. As a player Smith is mediocre, but he’s shown the ability to play end and his size is built for nose tackle.
  5. DE Tyson Jackson – His rookie season was a disappointment and there’s been no visible signs that he’s made a major step forward in his second pre-season. The Chiefs defense needs Jackson to be an unmovable force on his end, especially against the run. No matter what, he’ll make the roster. But to stay there, he’s going to need to climb the ladder each and every week.
  6. NT Derek Lokey – Just 300 pounds on the nose, but Lokey gets things done with quickness, leverage and smarts. He’s not the ideal backup nose tackle and overall, he may currently be as good as he’ll ever be. But his ability to play on special teams and even as a blocking fullback in goal line and short yardage situations gives him an edge on others.
  7. DE Alex Magee – Last year’s third-round pick is up and down in his play. There are practices where he stands out, and then others where he disappears and does not play the defense as it is coached. It’s unlikely they’ll slice a third-round pick in year two.
  8. DE/NT Dion Gales – Big and doughy, Gales plays with great enthusiasm and can shock a blocker on occasion with his power and quickness. But overall, there’s not much upside with him.
  9. NT Garrett Brown – Brown has a good chance to land a spot on the practice squad. The undrafted rookie has shown some skills and he’s got a lot of natural ability. His chances of making the 53-man roster might be better next year, if he gets a year to work with the staff.

LINEBACKERS ( 9 or 10)

  1. OLB Tamba Hali – With help from the other side of the defense, Hali could be a 14 or 15-sack guy, up from the 8.5 sacks he pulled down last year with no help. Right now, he’s one of the few game changers on the defensive side of the roster.
  2. ILB Derrick Johnson – Consistency remains the goal he must achieve to convince the coaches that he can play on all four downs. It’s a big contract year for D.J. – he must stay focused and get to the spots on the field where he’s expected to be.
  3. OLB Andy Studebaker – Have we seen the best of Studebaker, or has the Wheaton Wonder only scratched the surface of what he can do? It’s going to be fun to find out, but there’s no question the Chiefs need continued improvement from Studebaker.
  4. OLB Mike Vrabel – The grizzled veteran continues to get things done using his brains and heart. Whether he continues to be a starter will depend on how quickly Studebaker advances, but Vrabel will be part of the 2010 Chiefs defense and its leader on the front seven.
  5. ILB Demorrio Williams – There seems to be a lot of up and down with Williams’ game. This pre-season, he’s relatively free of injury and has flashed on some plays and picked up a pair of sacks. Whether Johnson or Williams starts at the weak side ILB, the other is going to be around to help.
  6. ILB Jovan Belcher – The youngster out of Maine has shown improvement over his rookie season and that advancement must continue throughout the coming season. If he doesn’t get the starting job at the strong side ILB, he’ll need to be very active in the kicking game.
  7. OLB Cameron Sheffield – The fifth-round draft choice has shown real explosion rushing the passer off the edge. He’s in need of more work and refinement of his skills, but there’s a big upside when it comes to his potential.
  8. ILB Corey Mays – Signed last year as player who could help on special teams, Mays ended up winning a starting job at the strong side ILB. Although he was among the team’s leading tacklers, there was a lot left to be desired in his play against the run. He’s a solid player.
  9. OLB Pierre Walters – Every year, the rookie free agents who made the roster the season before have to look up and see somebody trying to take their job. For Walters, the Chiefs drafted an OLB in Cameron Sheffield. There’s little chance he won’t make the final 53. Walters looks the part as a linebacker, but his production does not always match his physique. Working against him is the fact he’s not on most of the No. 1 units in the kicking game.
  10. ILB David Herron – Special teams is his ticket to the roster. Signed last year when injuries stacked up with the linebackers, Herron did a good job in the kicking game. The third-year veteran must make a dent on special teams.
  11. ILB Cory Greenwood – The Canadian rookie is a gifted athlete, who has a lot to learn about playing defense at the NFL level. But he keeps popping up on special teams and that’s his ticket to the active roster for 2010. If he doesn’t make it, expect him to be on the practice squad.
  12. ILB Justin Cole – Came to training camp as one of the top undrafted free agents in the league. He started at outside linebacker, but then was moved inside to help his chances of making the team. It’s all about the kicking game for Cole, coverage and blocking units. It’s his chance of sticking.
  13. OLB John Russell – Added during training camp because of some injuries, Russell has nice size at 6-4, 280 pounds. Even with that height and weight, he moves around quite well on the field. It’s hard to imagine a spot on the 53-man roster that will open up for him, but a slot on the practice squad would not be a surprise.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (9 or 10)

  1. CB Brandon Flowers – If there’s any help from the pass rush, this should be the season Flowers elevates his game to be included among the league’s best cover corners.
  2. SS Eric Berry – Already he has lifted the performance level at the strong safety position in just a trio of pre-season games. Berry will be vulnerable at times as all rookie safeties are to fakes and the like, but his quickness and speed allows him to make up ground on his mistakes.
  3. CB Brandon Carr – Much was made about his struggles early in camp, but through the last few weeks, Carr has been very active in knocking down passes and harassing receivers. With Flowers on the other side, he’ll see more balls. With more pressure, he’ll also see more INTs.
  4. CB Javier Arenas – He would make the team just based on his returning ability, but Arenas has shown he can contribute as a nickel back. At this point, rushing the passer may be his strongest suit as the nickel, rather than coverage.
  5. FS Jon McGraw – The veteran may be able to fight off the challenge to his starting spot this season, but the clock is ticking. Haley and his staff love McGraw’s veteran wisdom and the attitude he brings to work each day.
  6. FS Kendrick Lewis – Despite average speed, Lewis has shown the ability to cover a lot of ground in the secondary. He’s got great instincts and he’s a student of the game. How soon he moves into the starting spot will depend on how quickly he continues to adapt to the pro game.
  7. CB Maurice Leggett – Throughout his career, footballs seem drawn to Leggett, whether it’s through the air or fumbles. His ability to play safety makes him more valuable.
  8. S Reshard Langford – A less talented version of Lewis, he gets things done with brains rather than great speed. As the fourth safety, he’s on the roster edge.
  9. CB/S Ricky Price – In the last two weeks, Price has been getting snaps at cornerback as well as safety and the coaches think he can play a bit on the corner. Thursday night’s game will be a big one for him.
  10. CB Mike Richardson – The four-year veteran was a big special teams contributor last year and that’s a big chip in his favor. As a cover corner, he’s average at best. Definitely on the bubble.
  11. CB Travis Daniels – In his sixth season, Daniels is an up and down player. Some days he makes all the plays, other days he disappears. Another bubble dweller.
  12. S DaJuan Morgan – It’s hard to see how Morgan fits in the Chiefs secondary. The former third-round pick has been running third team safety all through camp and the pre-season. They figure to keep four. Bubble man.
  13. S Donald Washington – One of the major disappointments of the 2009 draft class, Washington was moved to safety and he’s done nothing memorable on the back line. He remains one of the most physically gifted players on the roster but that ability is not translating into performance. Definite bubble man
  14. CB Jackie Bates – Tough, undersized corner who spent last year on the practice squad. Bates may return to the developmental team, but there appears to be no place for him on the active roster.

TOTALS: 18 locks, 5 looking good and 13 players riding the bubble. There are 36 defensive players on the roster right now.

NFL PERSONNEL FILE FOR TUESDAY, AUGUST 31

  • BEARS – released injured FB Will Ta’ufo’ou.
  • BROWNS – released injured DL Titus Adams (leg); released CB John Bowie, WR Taurus Johnson, CB Gerard Lawson and OL John Malecki.
  • BUCCANEERS – the NFL suspended CB Aqib Talib one game and fined him two game checks for violating the personal conduct policy; placed LB Jon Alston on the injured-reserve list; released RB Derrick Ward and WR Terrence Nunn.
  • CARDINALS – placed FB Nehemiah Broughton (knee) on the injured-reserve list, ending his season; placed OLB O’Brien Schofield (knee) on the non-football injury list; released injured WR Darren Mougey (hand).
  • CHARGERS – placed ILB Donald Butler (Achilles) on the injured-reserve list, ending his season; released WR Gary Banks, LB Darryl Beckwith, G Lee Grimes, DL Ryon Bingham and RB Marcus Mason; signed P Glenn Pakulak.
  • CHIEFS – released WR Lance Long.
  • COWBOYS – signed TE Jason Pociask, last with Seahawks.
  • DOLPHINS – placed G Nate Garner (foot) on the injured-reserve list, ending his season; placed DE
    Phillip Merling (Achilles) on the non-football injury list.
  • EAGLES – placed DE Ricky Sapp (knee) on the injured-reserve list; placed DE Victor Abiamiri (knee) on the reserve/PUP list; claimed DE Pannel Egboh on waivers from the Texans.
  • FALCONS – released S Matt Giordano and DT Thomas Johnson.
  • GIANTS – placed LB Adrian Tracy (elbow), WR Sinorice Moss (hernia) and QB Jim Sorgi (shoulder) on the injured reserve list, ending their seasons; placed OL Kevin Boothe (pectoral) on the reserve/PUP list.
  • JAGUARS – placed DT D’Anthony Smith (Achilles) and C John Estes (knee) on the injured-reserve list, ending their seasons; released DL Julius Williams, WR Roren Thomas, C Cecil Newton and DB Josh Gordy; signed C Bradley Vierling.
  • JETS – claimed OLB Ricky Foley off waivers from the Seahawks; released QB Kevin O’Connell.
  • LIONS – placed CB Jack Williams (knee) on the reserve/PUP list.
  • PACKERS – placed CB Al Harris (knee), S Atari Bigby (ankle) and RB James Starks (hamstring) on the reserve/PUP list; placed RB Quinn Porter (knee) on the injured-reserve list, ending his season.
  • PANTHERS – placed LB Thomas Davis (knee) on reserve/PUP list; placed WR Wallace Wright (shoulder) and DE Hilee Taylor (knee) on injured-reserve list, ending their seasons; released WR/KR Dexter Jackson and WR Oliver Young.
  • PATRIOTS – placed CB Leigh Bodden (shoulder), S Josh Barrett (shoulder), DB Brett Lockett (chest) and DL Darryl Richard (foot) on the injured-reserve list, ending their seasons: released DB Terrence Johnson.
  • RAIDERS – released TE Eric Butler.
  • RAVENS – acquired CB Josh Wilson in a trade with the Seahawks in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick; placed RB Matt Lawrence (knee) and LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (quad) on the reserve/PUP list.
  • REDSKINS – placed WR Malcolm Kelly (hamstring) on the injured-reserve list ending his season; released C Edwin Williams, LS James Dearth, S Lendy Holmes and OLB Hall Davis.
  • SAINTS – the NFL suspended defensive line coach Travis Jones for 30 days for his role in a real estate scam where he played guilty of federal charges; released QB Sean Canfield.
  • SEAHAWKS – acquired OT Tyler Polumbus from the Lions for an undisclosed 2012 draft choice.
  • STEELERS – placed OL Chris Scott (foot) on reserve/PUP list; released FB Dwayne Wright, OT Adrian Jones, CB David Pittman and LB Brandon Renkart.
  • TITANS – activated DT Tony Brown from the PUP list; released injured DT Kareem Brown and LB Mike Rivera; released WR Bobby Sewall, P/K Ricky Schmitt and DB Pete Ittersagen.
  • VIKINGS – placed WR Sidney Rice (hip) on the reserve/PUP list; released WR Marko Mitchell.

11 Responses to “Starting With The Defense … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 1, 2010  - Tenand6 says:

    My hope is Pioli finds an ILB on the waiver wire or on a Practice Squad that is an upgrade over Mays.


  • September 1, 2010  - el cid says:

    Cannot argue but it would have been nice if someone could have beaten out Vrabel, McGraw, and Demarrio. Remember Philly has young guys and sends the greybeards down the road to lesser teams. But we are not there yet. I just hope the guys cut do not end up playing for a playoff team while we sit thru “work in progress”.


  • September 1, 2010  - dan in joplin says:

    Tenand6, if they would let cole or greenwood play, they will prob be better than mays. I would say they are more athletic. It would be the same situation as last year when Mays was allowed to play! Just a thought.
    elcid, i know you LOVE this work in progress! :)


  • September 1, 2010  - gorillafan says:

    el cid,

    I will have to give it to ya. I always thought you were a Debbie Downer and mostly had negative comments about our Chiefs. You still are…ha, but I guess you are more of a fan than I thought because you are on this site most every day and you did pay for the subscription for bobgretz.com. So I applaud you!! I was wrong!


  • September 1, 2010  - Joshua says:

    Regardless of DJ and Williams’ battle, Belcher should start over Mays. I think at some point this season Studebaker and Kendrick Lewis will work their way into the starting line-up. I think Crennel will realize that playmakers like Studey & Gilberry will be too valuable to bury on the bench. He’ll need to find ways to bring the pressure on the QB and besides Tamba, all our best pass rushers are currently coming off the bench. I think that will change before too long.

    Man that John Russell is a big dude for an OLB. He’s almost D-line sized.


  • September 1, 2010  - RickyP says:

    Joshua says: Man that John Russell is a big dude for an OLB. He’s almost D-line sized.

    Kind of reminds me of Adalius Thomas (6’2″ 270). If he could make as big of an impact…

    Something I hope the coaching staff would consider…If up and coming Andy Studebaker could take over the LOLB position then why not move Vrable over to LILB. It is the position that New England considered moving him to (so I hear) and he certainly has the size to be the thumper ILB and the coverage ability that someone like Mays can only dream of. As much as I like Belcher, it just seems to me that a 228 thumper is too light.

    Does anyone else think this seems feasible?


  • September 1, 2010  - dan in joplin says:

    RickyP, I agree completely on putting studebaker @LOLB and moving Vrabel inside! Haley himself said that Vrabel could play all 4 linebacker positions. They have to figure out a way to get the four best linebackers on the field starting w/ first down! They have been doing this w/ the nickel package, time to see how it works on 1st and 2nd down!


  • September 1, 2010  - Joshua says:

    Studey starting @ OLB, and Vrabel @ ILB with DJ and Tamba completing the starting lineup sounds great to me. Vrabel is already the starting ILB in our Nickel D, perhaps Crennel will make that change for our standard base D as well.

    All- in- all, I think all of our D-linemen and LB’s have distinct strenghts and weaknesses that are more or less suitable for different situations. I’d bet we have a very fluid rotation of all these players on a consistent basis that may make a “starting lineup” less important with a Front 7 by committee type of approach. I think we’ll look good doing that until crafty QB’s start picking us apart with No Huddle offenses.


  • September 1, 2010  - cupp says:

    Would Cory Greenwood take a spot on the practice squad vs. going back north and playing in the CFL?

    Also like the line on Justin Cole as: ” one of the top undrafted free agents in the league” I think thats like being the highest rated 3rd string QB.


  • September 1, 2010  - Edward says:

    I have no disagreements with none your choices Bob. Hopefully Haley will start Lewis over McGraw. This guy training camp has been just as good as Berry has. I wouldn’t mine seeing two rookie safeties back there in the secondary I think it’ll give us a better chance to win because what him and Berry lack in experience will be made up in their natural ability.


  • September 1, 2010  - Michael says:

    I think the heavy rotation of the front seven works the best for this team right now. There are both advantages and disadvantages to it, but to me the more variables you can throw at an offense the better.

    I’m not a Corey Mays hater, but I just don’t think he should start at LB. As Bob said, he is a solid player who is a core special teamer. Unfortunately for Mays, the team appears to have younger, more athletic LB’s with more upside. If they keep 10 linebackers, I probably would keep Walters and Greenwood or Cole, and the third guy on the PS. Russell might have a spot on the PS, too.

    If they do end up giving up on Morgan, I can’t see them cutting Washington, too. Washington has tons of potential; so maybe they keep 4 safeties and 4 corners with him as a swing man. Perhaps, the Lions would go for a package deal on safties Morgan and Paige?




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