Spotlight falls on competition in Chiefs’ preseason finale

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs will focus on evaluation throughout Thursday night’s preseason finale against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome.

Aug. 18, 2015; St. Joseph, MO: Chiefs running back Darrin Reaves (32) runs with the ball during a training camp drill at Missouri Western State University. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Aug. 18, 2015; St. Joseph, MO: Chiefs running back Darrin Reaves (32) runs with the ball during a training camp drill at Missouri Western State University. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Players seeing action must prove they belong when considering the starters aren’t expected to play much if at all.

The current 75-man roster reflects positions remain open, so Thursday night performances will help shape the initial 53-man roster, which must be established by Saturday at 3 p.m. CT.

“Most of the guys – the ones that we’re on the fence about – are going to get an opportunity to play,” coach Andy Reid said. “We’ll go through and evaluate. There are some spots that are very important for the reps, that these guys get in for our evaluation of them.”

Running back Darrin Reaves is expected to see extensive playing time and he wants to showcase why he should make the team as a backup.

“I feel like I just need to show what I can do in all phases of the game,” Reaves said. “Running the ball, pass protecting, catching the ball out of the backfield and show that I can contribute on special teams. If I can show my value on all three phases, I think I’ll be fine with a roster spot.”

Safety Ron Parker spent time with the Seattle Seahawks (2011, 2012) Oakland Raiders (2011) and Carolina Panthers (2012) before finding stability with the Chiefs.

The fifth-year pro understands what players on the bubble are experiencing heading into Thursday night.

“They’re going through a lot of thinking,” Parker said. “I know how it is; it’s a lot of pressure. It’s a numbers game, which is out of our control as players. When I get back and talk to the younger players, I try to tell them to just go out there and play their hardest, just do the best you can do and let everything play out for itself.”

Reaves, who signed two days into training camp, seeks to apply that message when he hits the field against the Rams.

“I heard when I first came into the league, the guys that are comfortable are the guys that are on the way out,” Reaves said. “So, I never feel like I’m comfortable enough like I’ve done enough. I always feel like there’s something more I can do.”

Here are key areas to monitor on the road to the initial 53-man roster:

WIDE RECEIVER BATTLE

The top five wide receivers project as Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Jason Avant, De’Anthony Thomas and rookie Chris Conley.

The scenario leaves Frankie Hammond Jr., Fred Williams and rookie Da’Ron Brown battling for one or two remaining roster spots at the position.

A major component on making the roster surrounds what a player offers.

“Offensively, a lot of it will come down to special teams, as you know,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “Our receivers are asked to play teams and they’re usually kickoff or punt return guys, so that’s a factor there.

“And then just how well do they fit into our system and how well do they execute, how well can they learn. Do they give us the best advantage week-in and week-out, and that’s how you evaluate every position. That’s how you come up with your 53.”

Williams leads the team with 13 receptions for 159 yards and three touchdowns through three preseason games.

Hammond has a team-high six punt returns for 64 yards, while Williams and Brown have not recorded a punt or kickoff return.

TIE-BREAK SCENARIO

The Chiefs covet versatility, evidenced by a roster ripe with players having the ability to play numerous positions outside of their primary spot.

And special teams have a role among the team’s decision makers on whether a player on offense or defense makes the initial 53-man roster.

“It’s a collective thing,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “The offense has their say, defense has their say on guys, and then special teams is like the, maybe a tie breaker. If we have guys that are close, we’re maybe going to take the guy that has special teams ability over somebody else.”

There is an attribute the coaching staff seeks outside of natural ability at a player’s usual position.

“Speed is probably the No. 1 thing on special teams that we look for,” Toub said. “Not necessarily someone that’s probably the most instinctive player, but somebody that’s fast and disruptive on special teams. Those are guys that you can work with and develop, and turn them into really, really good special teams players.”

NOT THE END OF THE ROAD

Twenty-two players will be out of job by Saturday’s league-wide deadline, a harsh reality of the NFL.

“For these rookies that have never been cut before, it’s difficult,” backup quarterback Chase Daniel said. “I was cut multiple times in my first year in New Orleans. I was on and off of the practice squad and on and off of the active roster. I got cut from Washington. So it’s very difficult and every guy has their unique way to deal with it so you just offer your support and just say, ‘Hey, make the best of your opportunity, you’ll land somewhere.’”

The landing spot could very well be the Chiefs practice squad, which can be established starting Sunday at 12 p.m. CT.

There are obviously worse scenarios, such as not having an opportunity at all.

“Practice squad wasn’t a bad thing, especially where I came from,” safety Ron Parker said. “I tell them I enjoyed every single moment I was on the practice squad. I tell them every chance you get, just live it up.”

Parker is a perfect example for young players to follow.

After bouncing around the league and using time on practice squads to develop, he emerged as a starter and went on to sign a five-year deal worth $30 million in March.

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Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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