It's no different in Kansas City. Tonight against the New Orleans Saints, the third and fourth quarters will be filled with players who may be staking their last claims – for now, anyway – to their dream job. Here are five such Chiefs.
1. CB Dimitri Patterson
Who is this guy? He literally came out of nowhere in training camp to impress the coaching staff, and especially defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who raved about the young cornerback on HBO's Hard Knocks. He's had a solid preseason through two games, but the Chiefs have an incredible numbers game going on right now at defensive back.
Patterson is battling guys like Tyron Brackenridge and Will Poole for that fourth corner spot. Poole is a veteran. The good news for Patterson is that Brackenridge is hurt at the moment, and perhaps headed to injured reserve. Either way, the Chiefs might have solved their depth problem at cornerback. It looks like at least a couple of these young defensive backs will pan out.
2. WR Samie Parker
Is the writing on the wall for KC's struggling fourth-year wideout? Last week against the Miami Dolphins, Parker, a supposed starter, was seen playing late in the third quarter with the third-team offense. Obviously the Chiefs aren't happy with him. He struggled in training camp, dropping passes left and right, and it's carried over to the preseason somewhat. He dropped a long pass in Cleveland and let a ball from Brodie Croyle hit him right in the hands against Miami, only to see it fall to the turf.
Like cornerback, there's a numbers game going on at wide receiver. The Chiefs will surely keep Eddie Kennison, Dwayne Bowe, Jeff Webb and Chris Hannon. Rookie Ean Randolph has caught the team's eye at punt returner. If the Chiefs only keep five wide receivers, it seems Parker is on the outside looking in. Perhaps the release of Rod Gardner on Wednesday is a positive sign, and Parker does have more experience than any other receiver outside of Kennison now, but it's hard to see him fitting in here.
3. RB Derrick Ross
You almost have to feel sorry for KC's second-year running back. A season ago he was the talk of OTAs, and the Chiefs wisely kept his abilities secret during preseason. That enabled them to sneak him onto the practice squad before shipping him off to NFL Europe this offseason, where he impressed.
Unfortunately, he started fumbling when he returned to Kansas City in the Spring. He's taken a beating over the last few months, and the fumbling problems didn't go away when training camp started. And of course, he fumbled against the Dolphins last week. The Chiefs have quite a bit of depth at running back – Larry Johnson, Michael Bennett, Kolby Smith, Marcus O'Keith, maybe even Priest Holmes – so things look grim for Ross. My gut feeling – either he beats out O'Keith for a spot on the practice squad or finds himself looking for another NFL team to play for.
4. OT Herb Taylor
Taylor only gave up one sack during his time at TCU. Quietly, he's been impressive as a rookie, and looked downright dominant at times in pass protection with the third-team offensive line in training camp. The Chiefs even used him with the starters briefly at left tackle when Damion McIntosh went down with a knee injury midway through camp.
Here's the problem – another numbers game. The Chiefs are four deep at tackle with McIntosh, Will Svitek, Chris Terry and Kyle Turley, and it's unlikely they'll keep five offensive tackles. Making matters worse is the fact that Chris Bober and Tre Stallings have stone-cold locks on the backup guard spots. Can Taylor hit the practice squad and float there? Kansas City sure hopes so. It'd be a shame to lose him.
5. TE Mike Pinkard
Here's another training-camp surprise. I hate to quote myself, but it seemed every day I was in River Falls, Pinkard made a play. He's a big, lanky tight end, and a good receiver. The issue here is his blocking, which isn't up to snuff, and certainly isn't on the level of Jason Dunn or Keith Willis.
The Chiefs have used Willis mostly in two-tight end sets this preseason, but Dunn returned to the practice field this week. If he's anything close to what he was last season, it's hard to see Kansas City parting ways with him. Pinkard is going to have to beat out Willis for that last tight end spot. Unlikely. Again, maybe the Chiefs can throw him on the practice squad.
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