Matt Cassel enters training camp as the unquestioned starter at quarterback. Rightly or wrongly, he would probably have to turn in an utterly disastrous performance to bring Brodie Croyle into the conversation.
For the first time in his brief career, Jamaal Charles will head to camp as the Chiefs' starting running back. The addition of free agent pick-up Thomas Jones makes for a potentially exciting duo, but Charles should be in no danger of losing his starting job.
At receiver, Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers should have the starting spots locked down. Rookie Dexter McCluster and former Cardinal Jerheme Urban will likely be the first options when the offense goes with three or more receivers.
In what marks our first actual position battle, it looks like rookie Tony Moeaki and holdover Leonard Pope will compete for the starting job at tight end. If he can stay healthy, Moeaki should provide a lot more punch in the passing game, but Pope could still see plenty of action as a blocker. As for Brad Cottam, who broke his neck against Cleveland in late December, it appears that he still hasn't been cleared for contact.
Albert is key piece of offensive line.
Up front, Branden Albert and Brian Waters are entrenched on the left side of the offensive line. But there's a looming competition in the middle, where incumbent starter Rudy Niswanger will be battling with the man he replaced at center, longtime Chief Casey Wiegmann.
The offseason additions of Wiegmann and Ryan Lilja would suggest the Chiefs are looking to get more athletic along the line. That plan would seem to give Wiegmann the advantage over the larger Niswanger, but at 37 years old, can Wiegmann still hold up? The answer to that question will ultimately trump any philosophy about the line getting quicker and more agile.
Lilja will take over at right guard, and former Patriot Ryan O'Callaghan – who started twelve games at right tackle last season – looks in line to keep his spot, barring a major push from Barry Richardson.
Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson enter camp as the unquestioned starters at defensive end. But one of the major questions to be answered over the next few weeks is who will line up between them at nose tackle.
Dorsey must excel in camp.
With no real standout, last year's starter Ron Edwards may have the inside track simply based on experience. But by the end of OTAs, Edwards had been pushed to the second team by former practice squad player Derek Lokey. Free agent addition Shaun Smith, a former player of Romeo Crennel's in Cleveland, will also be in the mix.
Defensively, though, the biggest question on everyone's mind is the status of Derrick Johnson. For the first time in his career, the former first-rounder spent last season coming off the bench. Will he crack the starting lineup in 2010?
Both Johnson and former UDFA Jovan Belcher will be looking for starting jobs at inside linebacker, which means they would have to bump aside incumbent starters Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams. Frankly, if they can't succeed at that task, the Chiefs' linebacker core may be in even worse shape than many have suspected.
One potential wrinkle to keep an eye on is the fact that – at least in certain formations –Mike Vrabel moved inside during OTAs. That allowed outside linebacker Andy Studebaker to run with the first team in Vrabel's vacated spot.
Since we can pretty safely assume that Vrabel will be part of whatever the Chiefs come up with, the lineup of Studebaker, Vrabel, Johnson, and Tamba Hali might represent the best possible combo the Chiefs could put on the field. Alternately, a pairing of Vrabel, Johnson, Belcher, and Hali wouldn't look too bad either. Only time will tell how the linebacker situation plays out.
Flowers won't have to worry about any competition for a starting spot this year.
In the secondary, the two corner spots belong to Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. Rookie corner Javier Arenas looks like he'll be the first player off the bench when the Chiefs put in their nickel package.
At safety, it might be going out on a limb, but we can probably go ahead and pencil in rookie Eric Berry's name as one of the two starters. The identity of his running mate, however, remains up in the air.
The two most likely candidates to start opposite Berry are veteran Jon McGraw and rookie Kendrick Lewis. Starting two rookies in the secondary, plus frequent duty from a third rookie in Arenas, might be a pretty tough call for a coaching staff that's not interested in dealing with those sorts of growing pains. That might give the edge to McGraw by default.
Kicker Ryan Succop and punter Dustin Colquitt head into camp with no questions about where they stand. For the time being, the Chiefs don't even have any camp fodder on the roster to push them during workouts.
Succop was offensive MVP in 2009.
The big question on special teams is at returner, where for the first time in ages the team appears to have more than one solid option. The odds-on-favorite would seem to be Javier Arenas, who scored an SEC-record seven punt return touchdowns while at Alabama. But going into the draft, fellow rookie Dexter McCluster was also highly regarded as a returner.
Though he remains a possibility, it's hard to imagine Jamaal Charles seeing much return duty now that he's a major cog of the offense. So the job should ultimately fall to Arenas or McCluster, or perhaps a combo of the two.