For those that keep track, the Kansas City Chiefs will end their training camp stay at St. Joe this afternoon as a confident group that has avoided serious injuries and significant roster controversies.
Head coach Andy Reid leaves camp today knowing that virtually his entire roster is set. Sure, some surprises will emerge between now and the final cuts – but nothing that’s going to send off any alarms in the Chiefs locker room.
Still as Kansas City packs their bags today and prepares for game two of the pre-season Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams, there are some question marks that need to be answered over the next three meaningless pre-season games.
OT Zach Sterup – Once considered a long shot to make the roster, the Nebraska undrafted free agent was a pleasant surprise at tackle. To this point, he had been the primary back-up at right tackle behind, Mitchell Schwartz. However, his roster spot is in serious jeopardy after the NFL passed down a four-game suspension on the former Cornhusker for violating the NFL’s drug policy. That means he’s not eligible to return until week five of the regular season and at that point the Chiefs might have moved on from Sterup. With his temporary roster loss only Jah Reid, who should be the team’s starting right guard, remains KC’s singular legitimate back-up at tackle.
QB Aaron Murray – With the injury to Tyler Bray, Murray will get significant playing time on Saturday against the Rams. Though he had a decent game against the Seattle Seahawks last weekend at Arrowhead, he’s not finished the final week of training camp on a high note. I’m not ready to give up on Murray but I can’t see the Chiefs carrying four quarterbacks in September. With Kevin Hogan’s NFL ceiling still a mystery, Murray could be the odd man out. However, he can change significantly should he play well the next three weeks.
RB Jamaal Charles – Though he returned to practice in a limited capacity on Tuesday, Sir Charles isn’t ready for game action. Granted he does not need any pre-season reps to earn his starting spot but he needs to reps in practice to build up his stamina. Luckily the Chiefs have a gold mine of running backs on the roster so Charles can take his time getting ready for the season opener. If I were the Chiefs, I’d continue to be very cautious with Charles.
S Eric Berry – The good news according to my spies is that, Eric Berry will likely return to the Chiefs before the season opener. How excited he is to make $10.8 million under the Chiefs franchise tag is another story altogether. It’s sad this stalemate between Berry’s agent and Chiefs management hit the point of no return. Berry’s contract demands were outrageous and the Chiefs were wise to pass on those inflated figures. Now the two sides have to use each other for the upcoming season. Berry needs to show he’s still an All Pro performer to earn riches in free agency in March of 2017, and the Chiefs have to hope, when he returns that he’s not jilted by the contract talks and acts like the savvy veteran leader he needs to be this season. If neither of those things happen, don’t be surprised if he’s dealt before the NFL trade deadline.
LB Justin Houston – I’m beginning to think Houston might have a shorter distance to returning to the roster than the gloom and doom that’s been reported by other outlets. Houston was in town this week visiting doctors. That’s a good sign considering he’s been a no show at training camp thus far. If he returns to the team next week and takes part in conditioning on the field, that could mean we could see the Chiefs best pass rusher sometime in October. Granted that’s optimistic but something tells me he’s farther along in regards to returning to the field then many people believe.
WR Chris Conley – He’s had a terrific training camp. If he turns the corner this season, it can be attributed to veteran, Jeremy Maclin. The Chiefs senior receiver forced Conley to work with him in the off-season and it appears to be paying dividends. The knock on Conley has never been about talent but about effort. Last year he showed flashes of being a solid NFL receiver. In camp, he’s been showing off another level – one that could be just the recipe the Chiefs offense needs in developing a consistent receiver opposite Maclin.