This was the 14th summer for the Chiefs in River Falls, now they'll move back to Missouri at their own training facility to begin preparation for the season opener. Yes they still have three exhibition games left but with only back spots to fill, these games will serve as auditions. One player who continues to shine is undrafted free agent from Arkansas Richard Smith.
At Arkansas the 5' 10" receiver was known as a possession receiver with solid hands. For the Chiefs, Smith is a certain lock to make the active roster. His adaptation and skill level has vaulted him ahead of veteran Johnnie Morton who is sidelined with an injury that could cost him a roster spot. Will the Chiefs take a chance on a rookie and release a veteran? That remains to be seen but based on the performance of Smith in the scrimmage against the Minnesota Vikings and the exhibition opener against the New York Giants, it's very possible.
Another receiver who continues to impress the entire coaching staff is rookie Tight End Kris Wilson. He along with fourth round draftee wide receiver Samie Parker are gaining confidence and with Smith gives the Chiefs even more options offensively this season.
All three of them will get an opportunity to shine on Monday Night when the Chiefs take on the Rams at Arrowhead. Even though they've locked up their spots Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil contends there are plenty of battles left for the back up positions.
"I think there are more roster battles than anyone understands, even the guys in helmets," Vermeil said to the Kansas City Star.
Vermeil has not closed out any spots yet for players still trying to climb onto the roster. With the next three-preseason games it will be important for many of the Chiefs to get a spot.
One battle to keep an eye on Monday is along the defensive line. The Chiefs face a tough decision between keeping nine or ten linemen. Those to watch in particular are Eric Downing, Lionel Dalton, and R-Kal Truluck, who has been battling an injury. Truluck was expected to be one of the main pass rushers this season but he'll need a strong final three games to convince the Chiefs he can do just that in 2004
Monday's game will be one of the factors for keeping one of the players on the roster. For many of the guys on the team Monday will be their Super Bowl, because that might be the last time they line up for the Chiefs this year.
Speaking of the Chiefs defense they will have to ground ‘The Greatest Show on Turf' if they want to win this Governor's Cup. The Rams even without a successful running game will routinely line up in four and five receiver sets. This offense will be a good test for Gunther Cunningham's defensive unit who has looked sharp in practice this week.
The Rams offensive line is struggling especially with the injury to Kyle Turley. So the Chiefs defense has an opportunity to get into the face of Rams quarterback Marc Bulger. If they can't get to him, he has the ability to hit open receivers with precision. But he also has the knack for throwing interceptions. The secondary will not be able to sit back; they have to be aggressive when lining up against the Rams receivers.
"I feel real comfortable playing in there," William Bartee said to the Kansas City Star. "It allows me to cover, but at the same time, it gives me a chance to get involved in our blitzes. It's kind of like being a safety/corner. You have to be able to do a lot of different things."
The starting defensive backfield on Monday will be Bartee, Eric Warfield, and Dexter McCleon at corner, and at safety Jerome Woods will be back there to help. Second year man Lyle West and Shaunard Harts will back them up and they need a strong game since both played poorly against the Giants last Friday Night in New York.
Expect the Chiefs offensive starters to play most of the first half. Dick Vermeil indicated on Friday that he would intertwine some of his back up players on offense to play with some of the first string unit. The Chiefs must develop some depth along the offensive line. Speaking of the line expect John Welbourn to start on Monday Night.
Jared Allen continues to shine in practice at defensive end. His value has increased because long time deep snapper Kendall Gammons is battling the young rookie for those duties. Gammons is by far the premier snapper in the game but if Allen can perform the same duties, the Chiefs could carry an extra kicker since Gammons can't play on offense. Still in a pinch, Gammons could line up at tight end but the Chiefs are set with Tony Gonzalez, Kris Wilson and Jason Dunn.
As for the defensive, Gunther Cunningham pointed out to reporters on Friday afternoon about much criticized defensive lineman Ryan Sims who struggled against the Giants playing a very vanilla defense. "Ryan Sims played okay. Did he play great? No. Did he play bad? No. He's just like every other guy. He's in mid-camp form. We've got to get everybody better. We'll see where this story goes as the season goes along."