The team's first depth chart was released on Monday, and the starters among the line were Tyson Jackson at left defensive end and Glenn Dorsey anchoring the right side. It's no surprise that Ron Edwards will be the nose tackle in the base 3-4 defense, but it is a surprise that offseason standout Shaun Smith is listed behind Jackson as an end rather than behind Edwards as the tackle.
Smith leapfrogged Alex Magee on the depth chart, which may surprise some, but Smith's progress since this past spring has been impressive.
I think the most interesting player to watch for on defense is, of course, Derrick Johnson. He's listed behind Demorrio Williams as the right inside linebacker, while Corey Mays remains on the left.
DJ needs to build upon final game a year ago.
The outside linebackers will once again be Mike Vrabel and Tamba Hali. Johnson has unequivocally said that he will be a starting linebacker once training camp concludes, but his spot once again with the second team is not good for his chances.
Cameron Sheffield is listed behind Tamba Hali on the left side and Andy Studebaker trails Mike Vrabel on the right. We saw what Studebaker could do on the field last season – notably against the Pittsburgh Steelers – but we'll have to wait and see if he can step up again in situations where Hali is taking a breather on the sideline.
As for Sheffield, this is the perfect opportunity for him to step up and impress Chiefs' coaches and fans alike. Tamba won't play much against Atlanta, and this will give Sheffield a chance to shine.
Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr are locks as starting cornerbacks, and Maurice Leggett and Javier Arenas are listed right behind them on the second team. Playing against Atlanta, Chiefs coaches will get to see whether or not it's best to play Arenas in the secondary like he was drafted, or if he should truly return kicks like some fans are speculating.
I just recently reported that Eric Berry and Jon McGraw had been practicing with the first team as both the strong and free safeties, respectively, and this will be the case heading into the game against the Falcons. However, Kendrick Lewis will follow McGraw on the depth chart with Reshard Langford following Berry.
Langford is showing signs that he can play.
In Monday's practice, however, Lewis was teaming with DaJuan Morgan. Morgan has slipped down the depth chart behind Langford to be listed with Donald Washington as the third team safeties.
Now keep in mind that while the starters may very well be set, this preseason game gives players like Johnson and Arenas an ample opportunity to prove themselves and find a definite spot on the depth chart. Four strong showings by Johnson in the preseason games will help him in his quest to surpass Williams and becoming the starting linebacker he has promised to become.
The defense will see strong showings early on from a limited Matt Ryan and special appearances from former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, and they need to step up it up in defending the pass. This is where the team has struggled the most in the past few seasons, and now that the team has found an anchor like Berry in the defensive backfield, , they hope to change things.
Look for the Falcons to pass as many times as they can with their first and second team offense, giving Berry and Johnson plenty of opportunities to impress.