“The Right 53″ 2011 Version 1.0

The Kansas City Chiefs are just about at the halfway point of the preseason and the first cuts are right around the corner.  While the roster currently sits at 89, Todd Haley and Scott Pioli will have their hands full trying to sort out a path to 53 before opening day on September 11th.

Even as the team cuts their own roster down to 75 and then 53, they will keep an eye on the waiver wire to see if they can find improvements from outside the organization.

With a lot of work still left to do in the preseason, here is my first guess at who will break camp with an Arrowhead on their helmet.

Is this “The Right 53″?  You decide

Quarterback (2)

Matt Cassel
Ricky Stanzi

Running Back (5)

Jamaal Charles
Thomas Jones
Dexter McCluster
Le’Ron McClain
Shane Bannon

Wide Receiver (6)

Dwayne Bowe
Steve Breaston
Jonathan Baldwin
Jerheme Urban
Terrance Copper
Verran Tucker

Tight End (3)

Tony Moeaki
Leonard Pope
Jake O’Connell

Offensive Line (8)

Branden Albert
Casey Wiegmann
Ryan Lilja
Jon Asamoah
Barry Richardson
Rodney Hudson
Jared Gaither
Darryl Harris

Defensive Line (6)

Glenn Dorsey
Kelly Gregg
Tyson Jackson
Wallace Gilberry
Jerrell Powe
Allen Bailey

Linebacker (9)

Tamba Hali
Derrick Johnson
Andy Studebaker
Justin Houston
Jovan Belcher
Cameron Sheffield
Brandon Siler
Cory Greenwood
Gabe Miller

Cornerback (5)

Brandon Flowers
Brandon Carr
Javier Arenas
Jalil Brown
Quinten Lawrence

Safety (6)

Eric Berry
Kendrick Lewis
Reshard Langford
Jon McGraw
Donald Washington
Sabby Piscitelli

Specialists (3)

Dustin Colquitt
Ryan Succop
Thomas Gafford

Last Five In

Gabe Miller
Darryl Harris
Sabby Piscitelli
Quinten Lawrence
Shane Bannon

First Five Out

Demorrio Williams
Anthony Toribio
Tyler Palko
Mike Cox
Ryan O’Callaghan

Bubble Thoughts

Every year there is a lot of questions at the bottom of a roster, but with this Chiefs team, it seems those questions rise well into the entire final quarter of spots.  None of it is talent based, but rather experience vs. potential.

Just look at linebacker.  Demorrio Williams has been a starter for Todd Haley at linebacker and in this scenario I have him on the outside looking in due to a fifth-round pick Gabe Miller.  Having such a solid group of three starters in Hali-Johnson and either Belcher or Siler should give defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel enough confidence to let go of the veteran Williams.  But they might feel a lot better going with the experience and trying to sneak Miller onto the practice squad.

One of the most difficult positions to figure out at this point in camp is the offensive line.  When you consider Hudson, even as a rookie, can play center and both guard positions, right off the bat you can think about going with less offensive linemen than you might otherwise want to.  If Gaither is healthy by the time camp is over — right now he isn’t –  there is little need for the Chiefs to carry more than eight on the offensive line.  I could be talked into O’Callaghan or even a dark horse like rookie Butch Lewis instead of Harris due to his inability to stay on the field.  He gets the nod here simply for more versatility than O’Callaghan but, again, health is a huge factor.

Just like last season, I have the Chiefs heading into the regular season with two quarterbacks.  The way I figure it, if Cassel goes down the team isn’t going to be saved by either player sitting behind him right now.  It just doesn’t make sense to waste a roster spot on a guy like Palko that will never take meaningful snaps, unless things go horribly wrong.  If you needed to bring him back, odds are he will be available throughout the season.

With Charles, Jones, McCluster and McClain the Chiefs have four running backs that can handle every offensive set.  If you told me those are the only players they decided to keep, I wouldn’t fight you on it, but kept seventh-round pick Bannon here as a guy that can learn from the Kansas City veterans.  Cox could push the rookie to the practice squad, but here is another situation of holding onto a guy the team can afford to develop on the active roster.

If Toribio had stayed healthy, he could have snagged a spot away from someone in the secondary.  But with Gregg and Powe in the middle and the Chiefs mixing and matching with so many different looks up front, they can get by without another nose tackle.  I’m still not totally committed to the idea of just six defensive linemen, but not sure exactly what position you’d take away from.

The leading candidate to be swapped for an extra defensive lineman would probably be Piscitelli.  Berry and Lewis are holding down safety, meaning there is little chance for the former second-round pick to get exposed in coverage, instead all he will be asked to do is run and hit on special teams.  That he can do and do well.

Another defensive back that will turn some heads here is Lawrence.  Just like the other swing spots on the roster, the Chiefs could decide to go with a veteran like Travis Daniels instead of a project like Lawrence.  And just like those other positions, I’m giving the nod to the younger player that can develop on the active roster since they will rarely be needed on defense.

We’ll take another stab at the roster next week with a little more game planning in Friday’s matchup with the Baltimore Ravens by the Chiefs coaching staff as a guide.

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