The Kansas City Chiefs will host the St. Louis Rams tonight at Arrowhead in the always-important third preseason game of the season.
As head coach Todd Haley takes a longer look at his starters, it’s the players behind them that are the ones fighting for spots on the team. The first round of cuts are quickly approaching and a bad game on Friday night against the Rams could seal the deal for players sitting squarely on the bubble.
Here are the three players (offense, defense, special teams) to keep your eyes on as the roster that will open the season on September 11th starts to come into focus.
Offense: Tyler Palko
Like last season, I had assumed that the Chiefs would only be carrying two quarterbacks. With Haley always looking for versatility, that extra roster spot could be seen as invaluable. But after a solid showing last week against the Baltimore Ravens, Palko could force Kansas City to bring three signal callers into Week 1.
Rookie Ricky Stanzi isn’t likely to go anywhere, so Palko will need another solid showing to cement the idea in Haley’s mind that three quarterbacks is the way to go.
Defense: Justin Cole
The season-ending injury to LB Brandon Siler leaves the door wide open for one of the younger Chiefs to step up and grab one of the final roster spots and maybe even some defensive snaps in the process. Jovan Belcher should hold onto his starting spot from last season, but there’s plenty of room behind him and Cole could work his way into that spot.
Cole broke camp with the Chiefs last season and was on the roster for the first 11 games, though he remained inactive before being released and placed on the practice squad.
The second-year player from San Jose State had a sack in the first preseason game against the Bucs and is built nearly identical to Siler (6-3, 242/6-2, 239).
Special Teams: Quinten Lawrence
If the Chiefs are going to allow the wide receiver-turned-cornerback develop on the active roster, he will need to contribute above and beyond on special teams.
Against the Bucs he made a terrible decision to take a kickoff out of the end zone and only got out to the 13, but bounced back last week with a nifty punt return, showing some potential. No matter which unit, a few impressive returns should allow him to hold on as the team’s final cornerback.