Projecting the Starters

With less than a week to go before the Chiefs open the season on Monday Night Football against San Diego, head coach Todd Haley believes he has the "Right 53". That will be in debate, because as of this writing there are still some question marks about the starters.

The Chargers will be ready come opening night. For the most part, their starting lineup has been determined for months. The same can't be said in Kansas City.

Haley has put together an interesting roster thus far. Still, there is no denying the importance of a win next Monday against the Chargers. In order for that to happen, he and his Super Bowl coordinators, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, must choose eleven starters on both sides of the ball.

So let's help them out.

OFFENSE:
Quarterback:
Matt Cassel gets the easy nod over Brodie Croyle. Would it have been so easy had the understudy not missed two preseason games? Probably would not have mattered. The Chiefs brass has too much iron locked up into Cassel this year. He's going to either take the Chiefs to new heights or lead them down another losing path.

Running Back:
Jamaal Charles should be running with the first team. I know Haley likes Thomas Jones, but I think his success in New York was in direct correlation with fullback Tony Richardson leading the way. Charles brings excitement and pace to the Chiefs' offense. And he's their best running back.

Haley shouldn't mess around with Charles any longer.
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Tight End:
Tony Moeaki needs to start ahead of Leonard Pope. The kid from Iowa is the future and the fact he can already run solid routes, block, and has the best hands of the three tight ends the Chiefs kept on the roster means he needs to be running with the bulls. I like Pope and he'll get plenty of reps in goal line situations, but Moeaki is a middle of the field receiver that's been missing since Tony Gonzalez was traded.

Fullback:
Tim Castille should be the only fullback on this roster. Mike Cox is a decent player but he has no value to this team. If the Chiefs add another veteran or bring someone up from the practice squad, he could be the odd man out. As far as Castille, he's hands down the starter.

Wide Receiver
Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers are locked. They've both had solid camps. Bowe is acting like he's ready for a break out season. Chambers appears to be ready to continue the role he played a year ago when he joined the Chiefs in mid season. With Dexter McCluster playing the slot and Jeremy Horne joining the line up when the Chiefs run four wide, these four are in no danger of anyone taking away their opportunities.

Veteran Center Casey Wiegmann gets the starting nod over Rudy Niswanger.
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Offensive Line:
Left tackle Branden Albert and guard Brian Waters are set on the left side of the line. Guard Ryan Lilja and right tackle Barry Richardson have locked down their starting assignments. That leaves the center position. Though Rudy Niswanger might be the best choice, he appears destined to backup Casey Wiegmann. In the long term, that's a bad move for this organization, but nobody is talking about 2011.

DEFENSE:
Defensive Line:
At the moment none of three starting defensive lineman deserve their lofty first string status. Tyson Jackson, Ron Edwards, and Glenn Dorsey are getting their spots by default. None of the three did much in the preseason, and it's going to be a problem for this team all season long if they don't step up. At the moment, I'm leaning toward putting Wallace Gillberry ahead of Dorsey. In fact, for conversation, I'll do just that.

It shouldn't be long before Gillberry is running with the first team defense.
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Linebacker:
With the emergence of Demorrio Williams as the team's leading pass rusher this preseason, he's a lock to start somewhere, but maybe not at inside linebacker. For me, I consider defensive starters those that play on the money downs. I think Williams will move ahead of Mike Vrabel on the outside. His sudden pass rushing swagger could be a perfect compliment to Tamba Hali. Inside, there is no question that Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher are best suited to match the efforts of their outside mates.

Cornerback:
Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers are set in stone. They've grown up a lot since the start of training camp. Carr really struggled but came on late and Flowers has been taking more chances, which isn't a bad thing. There was talk that second round pick Javier Arenas could push Carr, but that never happened.

Lewis has been a pleasant surprise on the defensive side of the ball.
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Safety:
Eric Berry has been so impressive that I already have him pinned as the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He never took anything for granted. He stepped into the starter's role in his first practice and is ready to lead the young secondary. Next to him should be fellow draftee Kendrick Lewis. I like Jon McGraw, but on money downs Lewis has all the tools to be a perfect fit for this defense. He's athletic, closes on receivers better than Berry at this point, but most of all his speed is far superior to that of McGraw.

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