Overseas Players Connot and Scanlon Return to KC

Unlike some NFL teams the Kansas City Chiefs take NFL Europe very seriously. They've seen first hand with the development of linebacker Mike Maslowski and Dante Hall what that league can do to prepare players for the NFL. This year safety Scott Connot and linebacker Rich Scanlon were two of the leagues brightest stars.

Last Saturday, as World Bowl XIII marked the conclusion of the 2005 season for NFL Europe, many of its leagues brightest stars were looking forward to getting back to the states and the NFL teams that had sent them overseas. Of the 32 NFL teams no one sent more players to NFL Europe than the Kansas City Chiefs with 13 players allocated among the six European teams. Now many of those players are returning to participate in OTA practices and this weekend's mini-camp.

Of the Chiefs players returning from NFL Europe several are expected to compete for positions on the 53 man roster. Those players include running back Jonathan Smith of the Amsterdam Admirals, receiver Johnathan Booth of the Amsterdam Admirals, safety Scott Connot of the Amsterdam Admirals, receiver Jeris McIntyre of the Rhein Fire, quarterback Casey Clausen of the Cologne Centurions, and Rich Scanlon of the Berlin Thunder.

Out of all the positions with heavy competition, linebacker has quickly become the most crowded and intense. Due to off season acquisitions through the draft and free agency the Chiefs now have 12 linebackers on the roster. They will likely only keep seven of them for the active roster and an eighth if you count the practice squad.

With the depth chart for all three linebacker positions still wide open I would expect to see things intensify from top to bottom. So far competition for the two starting outside positions has been stiff and the middle linebacker is still very much up for grabs with no true front runner.

The arrival of Rich Scanlon will add even further competition at linebacker. Scanlon, middle linebacker for the Berlin Thunder lead NFL Europe with 94 tackles and went on to be voted the leagues Defensive MVP. His stellar European campaign has drawn comparisons to teammate and fellow linebacker Mike Maslowski who in 1999 also earned the honor of Defensive MVP for his 105 tackle season with Barcelona. It is ironic that the two of them will now be competing against one another for the same position. However, Maslowski has yet to practice in team drills and the status of his return is somewhat of a mystery.

Scanlon will also find himself in competition with third year player Kawika Mitchell who has been the starter since Maslowski was injured in 2003. Since taking over as the starting middle linebacker Mitchell has been less than impressive. Due to his athletic ability the Chiefs coaches are intent on giving Mitchell one more chance. For now I would anticipate the immediate competition at middle linebacker to be between Mitchell and Scanlon.

The final player in contention with Scanlon is 5th round pick and former I-AA phenom Boomer Grigsby. With his fiery persona and strong work ethic Grigsby has quickly become a fan favorite without making a single NFL tackle. Like Scanlon, Grigsby is the latest Kansas City off season folk hero. That alone makes it interesting when you think about those two competing against one another for a spot on the depth chart. Paul Bunyan versus Pecos Bill anyone?

As far as Scanlon's skill set goes he should be right in the mix for contention to become the starting middle linebacker. I have noticed that the one thing he does particularly well is the way he uses his athleticism to flow to ball on the perimeter. He is very effective at tracking the ball carrier from sideline to sideline because of his quickness and above average instincts. He is also a sure tackler, something the Chiefs have been sorely missing at linebacker since Maslowski's injury.

Like all players Scanlon is also not without his weaknesses. Despite his large number of tackles in Europe, Scanlon could stand to become stronger at the point of attack. He really doesn't control the middle of the defense the way you would expect him to. He has real trouble shedding the blocks of offensive linemen once they engage him. Part of that could be due to Scanlon playing a little too high at times. He will also improve in that area once he learns how to explode in to the blocker while using his hands to disengage their arms. Fortunately for Scanlon he merely has to improve his technique and that can be done through coaching.

It should be a forgone conclusion that Scanlon will make the team and be a major contributor in some fashion. At this point, unless Maslowski can return from injury or Kendrell Bell is moved to the inside, I would call Scanlon an early favorite to win the starting job at middle linebacker.

Additional Chiefs Notes:
Receiver and Safety will also be hot spots for contention. Right now the Chiefs have 11 receivers on the roster and 9 safeties.

Scott Connot played well in NFL Europe but he will have his work cut out for him competing with Willie Pile, William Bartee, Sammie Knight, Jerome Woods, Greg Wesley, and Shaunard Harts.

Wide Receivers Johnathan Booth and Jeris McIntyre are longshots to make the team because of the depth ahead of them with Chris Horn, Craphonso Thorpe, Richard Smith, Dante Hall, Marc Boerigter, Eddie Kennison, Sammie Parker, and Az Hakim.

Running back Jonathan Smith might have the easiest road to a roster spot. His only real competition for the third tailback spot will come from rookie Sam Gado. Gado, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Liberty College has been impressive through OTA's.

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