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Rosterology: Offseason workouts signal next men up

The beginning of offseason workouts for the Chiefs brought indications from coach Andy Reid on which players will get the first shots at filling starting positions vacated by departing free agents.

Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; General view of Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; General view of Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The two biggest questions answered were at right guard and free safety.

Reid said Rishaw Johnson will likely get the early nod at right guard over fellow reserve Rokevious Watkins. Both players started last season in Week 17 vs. the San Diego Chargers, with Johnson starting at right guard and Watkins at left guard.

However, in the team’s unofficial postseason depth chart listed Watkins as the starter at right guard. [Editor's note: That unofficial offseason depth chart has since been pulled from the team's official website.] Yet, Reid indicated the race for starter is still very close.

“It will probably be Rishaw getting in there and doing his thing,” Reid said at Monday’s offseason workout press conference.

Reid also said veteran Hussain Abdullah will get the first crack at the open free safety position over second-year player Sanders Commings.

“We’ll see,” Reid said. “Right now, Abdullah is the obvious one and deserving of that opportunity. Sanders will have an opportunity too. He’ll be healthy enough.”

The only addition to Rosterology comes with the re-signing of free-agent wide receiver Kyle Williams. Williams was claimed off waivers last November from the San Francisco 49ers, but was quickly placed on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury.

Throughout the 2014 offseason, “Rosterology” on ChiefsSpin.com will bring roster madness to the Chiefs, providing an opportunity to follow the building of the team throughout the offseason as players win spots on the team, sleepers play their way to starting positions and seeming locks fade down the stretch.

Here’s the unofficial depth chart as it stands now. Players marked with an asterisk (*) are considered 90 percent likely or better to make the 53-man roster. Players without an asterisk are on the bubble, meaning they would currently make the team but are not guaranteed a roster spot. Spots marked “OPEN” indicated there is no one currently under contract to likely fill that spot on the depth chart.

OFFENSE

WR Donnie Avery* A.J. Jenkins Weston Dressler
LT Eric Fisher* Jeff Linkenbach*
LG Jeff Allen* OPEN
C Rodney Hudson* Eric Kush*
RG Rishaw Johnson Rokevious Watkins
RT Donald Stephenson*
TE Anthony Fasano* Travis Kelce* Richard Gordon
WR Dwayne Bowe* Junior Hemingway Kyle Williams
QB Alex Smith* Chase Daniel* Tyler Bray
RB Jamaal Charles* Knile Davis* OPEN
FB Anthony Sherman

——

Unsigned Free Agents: None
Signed for 2014: TE Sean McGrath, RB Cyrus Davis
Signed to Reserve Squad: RB Joe McKnight, T Colin Kelly, C Chandler Burden, T R.J. Dill, WR Frankie Hammond, TE Demetrius Harris, WR Jerrell Jackson, FB Eric Kettani, WR Rashad Ross, WR Fred Williams

Based on Reid’s statements at the offseason workout press conference, Rishaw Johnson edges ahead of Rokevious Watkins in the race for the starting right guard spot. However, this remains one of the most volatile and competitive position on the team, with no guarantee Johnson or Watkins will win the battle or that both players will necessarily make the team. Guard is certainly a position the Chiefs may target in next month’s draft.

Wide receiver Kyle Williams re-upping with the team earns him a spot on the roster, but he’s most definitely on the bubble along with A. J. Jenkins, Weston Dressler and Junior Hemingway. The Chiefs will carry at most six wide receivers next season, meaning any free agents or draft picks would likely push one of these players off the bubble.

DEFENSE

LDE Vance Walker* Allen Bailey Mike Catapano*
NT Dontari Poe* Cory Grissom
RDE Mike DeVito* OPEN
LOLB Justin Houston* Frank Zombo*
LILB Joe Mays* Nico Johnson* OPEN
RILB Derrick Johnson* James-Michael Johnson
ROLB Tamba Hali* OPEN
LCB Brandon Flowers* Marcus Cooper* OPEN
RCB Sean Smith* Chris Owens
SS Eric Berry* OPEN
FS Husain Abdullah* Sanders Commings*

—–

Unsigned Free Agents: None
Signed for 2014: CB Ron Parker, DE Jaye Howard, LB Dezman Moses
Signed to Reserve Squad: DE Dominique Hamilton, DE Demarcus Van Dyke, DT Chas Alecxih, DT Risean Broussard, LB Jordan Campbell, LB Alonzo Highsmith, LB Josh Martin, LB Ridge Wilson, CB Vernon Kearney, CB Terrance Parks, S Malcom Bronson

Safeties Husain Abdullah and Sanders Commings swap positions in this round of Rosterology, with Abdullah moving ahead in the race for starting free safety. Given how the team has continued to offer glowing remarks throughout the offseason, indications are that the Chiefs may want Commings to be a strong contender for the starting job. But right now Abdullah is the reigning returner from 2013.

With the Chiefs’ limited free agent activity and less than full complement of draft picks, the likelihood of players currently under contract moving from off the bubble and on to the roster will increase closer to training camp. Defensive back Ron Parker, defensive end Jaye Howard and linebacker Dezman Moses are all returning players under contract, and there remain backup positions available at each of their positions. If the Chiefs don’t go this direction in the draft or during late free agency, their roster prospects increase dramatically.

SPECIAL TEAMS

P Dustin Colquitt*
K Ryan Succup*
LS Thomas Gafford*
PR OPEN Weston Dressler
KR OPEN Knile Davis*

—–

Who will return kicks for the Chiefs is largely a mystery at this point. The most experienced returners on the team are Weston Dressler, who has never returned a kick in the NFL, and Joe McKnight. Kyle Williams did return punts for the 49ers and was an experienced returner in college. A. J. Jenkins and Junior Hemingway had limited experience returning kicks in college but have yet to return kicks in the NFL. Donnie Avery has returned two kick offs in his career, but it’s unlikely the Chiefs will want to use him in that role.

Williams and Dressler are the most experienced punt returners, but both have huge questions marks. Williams is recovering from a torn ACL suffered last November, and Dressler is a newcomer to the NFL despite his experience in the Canadian Football League. Outside Knile Davis, the team is virtually bereft of experienced kickoff returners unless McKnight makes a strong push for a roster spot.

The Chiefs have tremendous faith in special teams coach Dave Toub, and his results last season and his long term track record indicated his kick return success is more about scheme and execution than the returner himself. That theory may be tested by the Chiefs unless they make an acquisition through free agency or the draft.