Snapshot of Chiefs roster on defense, specialists before OTAs

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May 28, 2014; Kansas City, MO; General view of Chiefs defensive backs going through individual drills during OTAs at the team's training facility. Credit: Teope

May 28, 2014; Kansas City, MO; General view of Chiefs defensive backs going through individual drills during OTAs at the team’s training facility. Credit: Teope

The Chiefs enter Phase Three of the offseason workout program with the first set of voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) on May 26-28.

The next period of OTAs occur June 2-4 and June 9-12, and then the three-day mandatory minicamp on June 16-18 before the Chiefs report for training camp sometime in late July.

Kansas City’s pass defense remains intact from a 2014 season that saw the unit finish ranked second in the league (203.2 yards allowed per game) in addition to not allowing a 300-yard passer.

All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston comes off a campaign with a team-record 22 sacks in a single season.

While the pass defense thrived, the run defense suffered despite allowing just four rushing scores on the season.

Kansas City’s run defense ranked a woeful 28th in the league allowing 127.2 yards rushing per game, which included a brutal stretch between Weeks 11-14 when opposing running backs combined for 738 total yards rushing during that span.

The interior run defense receives a boost with return of inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, who spent the 2014 season on injured reserve after rupturing an Achilles tendon in the season opener.

The specialists grouping experiences a transition with a pending battle at long snapper.

The Chiefs are currently at the 90 maximum allowed on an offseason roster, and it should be considered fluid outside of established starters.

The roster breaks down with 45 players on offense, 41 on defense and four specialists.

Below is how the defense and specialists (rookies are italicized) shape out by position before OTAs begin Tuesday, barring weekend transactions.

Click here to view the offense. 

DEFENSE

Defensive end (5) Allen Bailey, Mike DeVito, Mike Catapano, Vaughn Martin, David Irving

Bailey holds down one spot and the Chiefs receive a boost with the return of DeVito and Catapano, both of whom spent the 2014 season on injured reserve.

The Chiefs signed Martin to a free-agent contract in February, and Irving signed as an undrafted free agent.

Defensive tackle (6) Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard, Nick Williams, Jerel Worthy, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Charles Tuaau

Poe anchors the defensive line, but the Chiefs should look for a way to provide after Poe logged a second straight season with 1,000-plus total snaps.

The Chiefs list Howard as a defensive tackle, but he can also play defensive end, where he started 10 games in place of Mike DeVito last season.

The Chiefs added depth with the drafting of Nunez-Roches and signing of Tuaau as an undrafted free agent.

The 6-4, 309-pound Williams is flying under the radar, but the former seventh-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2013 NFL Draft has experience in a 3-4 defensive scheme.

Worthy, a former second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 2012 NFL Draft, provides depth and could challenge for a roster spot after spending the 2014 season on the practice squad.

Outside linebacker (7) Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, Josh Martin, Frank Zombo, Dezman Moses, Sage Harold

This is obviously a crowded situation, but a team can never have enough outside pass rushers in today’s pass-happy NFL.

Houston comes off an All-Pro season and will anchor the left side, but it won’t surprise if he elects to skip voluntary OTAs since he hasn’t signed his franchise tender.

The Chiefs went through that scenario with Houston in 2014, and that afforded Ford opportunities to see much-needed repetitions. Ford’s development entering 2015 takes on importance considering his status as a first-round draft pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Hali, who enters his 10th season, agreed to a $3 million pay cut to stay. But he is basically playing on a one-year deal.

Martin was tendered as an exclusive rights free agent, while Moses signed a one-year deal before the start of free agency. Zombo is in the final year of his contract.

The Chiefs signed Harold as an undrafted free agent after he recorded 13 ½ sacks in his senior season at James Madison University.

Inside linebacker (6) Derrick Johnson, Josh Mauga, James-Michael Johnson, Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Justin March

The Chiefs injected youth with the fourth-round selection of Wilson and fifth-round selection of Alexander through the draft at a position in need of it. March signed as an undrafted free agent.

Projected starters Derrick Johnson, who returns from an Achilles injury, turns 33 in November, and Mauga, who started 16 games in 2014, will turn 28 in June. Both veterans provide stability at the inside linebacker spots as Wilson and Alexander develop in the defensive scheme.

James-Michael Johnson, who appeared in 16 games with nine starts last season, is in the final year of his contract.

Cornerback (10) Sean Smith, Phillip Gaines, Jamell Fleming, Marcus Cooper, Aaron Hester, Deji Olatoye, Marcus Peters, Steven Nelson, DeVante Bausby, Justin Cox

The top five cornerbacks realistically project as Smith, Peters, Gaines, Fleming and Nelson, but Smith could be facing a suspension after pleading guilty to a 2014 DUI.

Smith and Fleming also enter the final year of their respective contracts. The Chiefs, however, addressed that pending hole with the selections of Peters in the first round and Nelson in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

The Chiefs also signed a pair of intriguing undrafted free agents with the 6-2, 180-pound Bausby, a native of Kansas City, and the 6-1, 191-pound Cox. Both players bring experience in a press-man scheme, while Cox offers versatility at free safety, a position he played at Mississippi State.

Cooper has two more years remaining on his contract, but he will need to step up in 2015 to make the roster. He began the 2014 season as a starter before being benched in favor of Fleming after the Week 6 bye, and Cooper’s playing time was relegated to special teams the rest of the season.

Olatoye, who spent time on the practice squad in 2014, and Hester signed reserve/future deals after the regular season.

Strong safety (3) Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Tyvon Branch

Berry’s status for the upcoming season remains unclear as he battles lymphoma. The Chiefs, however, have veteran depth with Parker and Branch.

Parker, in particular, started 11 games at strong safety in Berry’s place last season.

Free safety (4) Husain Abdullah, Kelcie McCray, Daniel Sorensen, Sanders Commings

Abdullah is the clear starter, but enters the final year of his contract.

The Chiefs have depth behind Abdullah with McCray, who played mostly on special teams in 2014, second-year pro Sorensen, who offers versatility to play strong safety, and Commings.

The 6-0, 223-pound Commings intrigues given his upside. The fifth-round pick of the 2013 draft, however, must stay healthy after his first two seasons were spent on injured reserve.

SPECIALISTS

Punter (1) Dustin Colquitt

Colquitt is one of the NFL’s top punters.

Kicker (1) Cairo Santos

Santos connected on 25-of-30 field goal attempts in his rookie season.

Long snapper (2) James Winchester, Andrew East

The battle between Winchester, who signed a two-year deal, and East, who signed as an undrafted free agent, shouldn’t be overlooked.

The Chiefs will have a new long snapper for the first time in seven seasons after letting Thomas Gafford leave via free agency.

And the position takes on importance when considering the league’s implementation of a change to the point after touchdown attempt from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line, which is the equivalent to a 33-yard field goal attempt.

The Chiefs don’t have the luxury of pre-existing chemistry between the long snapper, holder and kicker entering OTAs.