Chiefs lean on several prospects to open new season
KANSAS CITY – Andy Reid will readily admit that he loves offensive linemen.
He played the position at BYU, for one thing. He coached the big guys for years in college and in the NFL before becoming a head coach in Philadelphia and Kansas City. And that affinity for perhaps the most underappreciated position on the field has never waned during three decades in the league.
Still, it was a bit surprising to see 10 of them make the Chiefs‘ active roster last weekend.
“Yeah,” Reid acknowledged Monday, “but we like the guys we got there. We’ve kept 10 before, and you know you can’t have enough of those guys. But everything in this thing is fluid.”
The offensive line isn’t the only spot where the Chiefs made some atypical roster decisions. They also kept just two quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and Chad Henne, in a departure from Reid’s norm, and they’ll have just two tight ends available when they open the season against the Chargers on Sunday.
Demetrius Harris will join the fold in Week 2, once he serves his one-game drug suspension.
The Chiefs also kept an additional running back, giving them four ball-carriers along with fullback Anthony Sherman. Undrafted rookie Darrel Williams was able to crack the 53-man roster along with starter Kareem Hunt and backups Damien Williams and Spencer Ware, playing so well in training camp and throughout the preseason that the Chiefs didn’t want to let him go.
In fact, that belief in their youth shaped a lot of the Chiefs’ roster decisions.
They let go veteran quarterback Matt McGloin once they managed to stash undrafted free agent Chase Litton on their backup squad. They also cut loose veteran linebacker Frank Zombo, a mainstay since Reid’s arrival in 2013, in favor of undrafted rookie Ben Niemann and third-year pro Terrance Smith.
“Well, we had some good young players we wanted to keep,” Reid said, speaking specifically about the choice to keep two QBs on the active roster, but a statement that could apply to the entire roster.
“We thought we’d do that and see how it worked. But it was in order to keep some younger guys.”
The Chiefs were one of the oldest teams in the league last season, particularly on defense, where linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali helped drive the average age up. They still have their share of veterans, but a significant roster turnover has helped to bring that number back down.
In the secondary alone, the Chiefs have a trio of rookies in safety Armani Watts and cornerbacks Tremon Smith and Charvarius Ward. They also have a trio of rookie linebackers in Niemann and draft picks Breeland Speaks and Dorian O’Daniel, and another rookie up front in Derrick Nnadi.
The performance of the defensive backfield, though, will draw plenty of attention on Sunday. That’s because safety Eric Berry remains a question mark after a heel injury kept him out most of training camp, and the group was so shaky in preseason games that some late-camp additions were made.
Orlando Scandrick signed a free-agent deal to solidify cornerback. The Chiefs also traded for Ward the night of their preseason finale, then signed veteran safety Ron Parker over the weekend.
“We do have a couple of new, younger guys. I do like them,” Reid said. “There’s a good nucleus with that group. I have a lot of confidence in (defensive backs coach) Al Harris, and we’ll just give those guys an opportunity to grow. I’m good with the whole cornerback situation. I like what we have there. I’m looking forward to seeing how those guys develop throughout the season.”
Reid could say the same for just about every position on the team.
Notes: Reid declined to say whether Berry will be available for the opener, calling him day to day. “We’ll see how it goes,” Reid said. … Parker spent the past four seasons with the Chiefs before signing with Atlanta, which cut him last week. Reid said the veteran safety looked good in the preseason, though, and that he was hampered by a high ankle sprain much of last season. “He knows the system, knows the scheme,” Reid said. “We have a lot of trust in him.”