After waiving eight players this past Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs continue their pursuit of trimming its roster down to 75 players by the mandatory deadline of Aug. 30. In addition, the league’s final roster cut down to 53 players must take place on Sept. 3. For the Chiefs, a lot has transpired this past week, including a third preseason game that revealed more about the perspective of its roster. With the final preseason game scheduled for Thursday, here is a breakdown of the players and positions that Kansas City will be trying to square away before final moves are made.
It’s rare for a football team to hold onto five quarterbacks, let alone four at the start of the season, but that’s exactly the type of situation the Chiefs are currently experiencing. With clarity at the top of the depth chart in Alex Smith and Nick Foles as the solidified No. 1 and No. 2 starters, there isn’t a true understanding of what lies ahead with the remainder of Kansas City’s quarterback core.
The Chiefs have hung onto 25-year old Aaron Murray, who is probably the most controversial QB on its roster. Murray was the Chiefs’ fifth round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, and as soon as Murray suited up as the Chiefs’ third stringer in 2014, there was hype surrounding him to eventually blossom into the team’s franchise quarterback. However, roughly three seasons into his NFL career and Murray hasn’t progressed as the star that the Chiefs previously envisioned him to be.
During his time at Georgia and briefly with Kansas City, Murray has possessed the tools to make it in this league: a strong throwing arm and the awareness to find receivers down field. In Murray’s three preseason games, he’s completed 15 out of 23 passes for 165 yards. At best, these tools and performance can land Murray a back-up gig somewhere, however in Kansas City that gig may soon be fleeting.
Another SEC product, this time from Tennessee, four-year pro Tyler Bray has seen his stock plummet while as a Chief. Like Murray, Bray was chosen for his strong-arm and durability. Unfortunately, none of those measurables have panned out for the undrafted star, who is likely on his way out. Despite being taller and more experienced than his predecessors on the depth chart, injuries (most notably to his neck) and the inability to hit receivers in stride have caught up to him. Bray may very well be in deeper waters than recently drafted Stanford product Kevin Hogan who has only participated in three offensive drives during the preseason.
There isn’t a shortage of talent coming from Kansas City’s backfield, that’s for sure, as there are currently five active tailbacks on the roster. With Jamaal Charles out until at least Week 4, the main production in the backfield revolves around second-year backs Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, who both burst onto the scene as rookies last season.
While Kansas City receives steady production from two of its second-year stars, many questions still lie in the development of the fourth and fifth stringers. Knile Davis, who will be entering his fourth season in the NFL has seen his workload progressively decline after a breakout 2014 campaign, where he rushed for 463 yards and six touchdowns on 134 carries. At the time Davis looked to be an admirable back-up to Charles but then a slew of knee injuries and fumble problems last season slowed him down. Still, Davis remains a viable weapon on special teams as a kick returner and without a true competitor emerging in that category, Davis’ job could be safe.
The final running back that the Chiefs will be making a decision on is former undrafted free agent Darrin Reaves. Reaves was picked up by Carolina in the middle of the 2014 season before being released at the start of training camp last year. Andy Reid must be seeing something encouraging in the 23-year old to stick with him for this long. When placed in the second half of games during the preseason, Reaves has flourished in short yardage situations, displaying a large dose of power in his runs.
Based off the consistency with this group, the Chiefs could stick with its guns and not cut anyone. However, by doing so this could create a disadvantage when the time comes to hold onto bigger names at different positions. This is why it makes sense for Kansas City to keep its assets at a minimum and roll with either three or four backs at the start of Week 1.
A lot of imminent questions swirled in relation to this position in the offseason. Such as, which set of receivers can rise up to serve as secondary options alongside Jeremy Maclin? Or, do the Chiefs have enough receiving talent around Alex Smith to form an imposing offense?
Entering Week 1, both of these questions are answered with a resounding yes. So far this preseason the Chiefs have received major strides from it’s No. 2 and No. 3 wideouts in Chris Conley and Albert Wilson. Wilson, who finished third on the team last year in receptions (35) and receiving yards (451) will have some added pressure on him in 2016, as it could be his last gasp opportunity to prove his worth on the roster. Conley on the other hand, will be looking to expand upon his underwhelming rookie season that saw him catch only 17 passes for a paltry 199 yards and one touchdown.
While the battle between the inside and outside slot receivers rages on, the more intriguing discussion is how Kansas City fills-in the rest of its receiving core. There’s a laundry list of options that the Chiefs can turn to, but more ways than not will Reid trim his roster to six available receivers at preseason’s end. Tyreek Hill, who was a precarious draft pick this year out of Oklahoma State was scrutinized severely for numerous unsettling scenes made off-the-field. But under Reid’s fatherly guidance, he has directed Hill into a reliable slot receiver and return specialist out of nowhere. Hill’s breakneck speed and knowledge of tracking the ball has separated himself from peers such as De’Anthony Thomas and Frankie Hammond who appear to be on the outside looking in for a roster spot.
The final name to ponder is former life-long Oakland Raider Rod Streater. During intermittent playing time in the preseason, Streater provided streaks (no puns intended) of being a low-risk possession receiver. With his veteran experience and craftiness to pick up yards after the catch, Streater is safe bet to be the fifth or sixth man kept on the roster.