In 11-on-11 drills, only Hali held his spot in the starting lineup, with Andy Studebaker replacing Vrabel on the outside. At inside linebacker, Derrek Johnson and Jovan Belcher replaced Mays and Williams. The new unit looked great with Studebaker excelling in both pass coverage and particularly in pass rush situations. Studebaker gives the Chiefs more options and versatility than the incumbent Vrabel, but the competition is still wide open.
What Studebaker and Belcher give the Chiefs in versatility, they lack in overall experience and consistency. However, this has not deterred Coach Haley from putting his confidence in them.
"These are two players who we started to get excited about as last year went on, and now they go into the group of two players that have to be better players for us to be a better team," Haley said of the young linebackers.
"Our group is made up of one, two, and three-year players and, in my mind as a coach, those are the critical guys. And there's no two, in my mind, more important than those two."
This may explain why the Chiefs passed on some talented linebackers in April's draft.
Williams has always played with emotion.
After possibly losing his starting spot, you would think Williams would be a bit down, but he seems to be feeding off of the competition.
"All my life I've been an underdog", he said of the position battle. "When I'm the underdog, I work a lot harder."
Williams has shown up to camp with a new attitude and aggression. Multiple times in 11-on-11 drills, the seven-year veteran has found himself in the backfield, breaking down both pass and rush attempts. This type of aggression, though, is not what Williams believes will set him apart from the pack.
"I'm gonna come to work each day and I'm gonna work hard," he said after the first practice of day four. "My job is to make big plays. That's the only thing that people remember, the big plays."
In the nickel package, we saw Belcher and Johnson playing very well. Both players were exceptional against the run, which was drawing great praise from both defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and the fans in attendance.
Studebaker learned a lot as a back-up to Vrabel.
Vrabel appears to have found his niche on the team as well. His veteran leadership has been utilized not only by his fellow linebackers, but also by the rest of the team. Whether it was bringing an intense approach to practice or getting in Tyson Jackson's ear and helping him during pass rush drills, Vrabel has proved his value. Despite his leadership role, however, I still believe it will be tough for the Chiefs to find Vrabel a spot on the roster.
The young linebacker out of Canada, Cory Greenwood, continues to impress the coaching staff by consistently being around the ball. Heading into camp I believed Greenwood would be a long shot to make the roster, but with Pierre Walters struggling on the first day and riding the stationary bike the last five practices, the former CFL third-overall pick may be able to extend his green card.
When Haley first arrived in Kansas City, the recurring theme vocalized by the first year coach was competition. So far, after four days of camp, it appears to be paying off.