Red Zone

Five Chiefs story lines to monitor heading into training camp

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Mike DeVito, who ran through footwork drills during organized team activities earlier this year, could be called upon to give Dontari Poe a break.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Mike DeVito, who ran through footwork drills during organized team activities earlier this year, could be called upon to give Dontari Poe a break. The Kansas City Star

The Chiefs currently have 89 players on their roster for training camp, which starts Tuesday when rookies and quarterbacks report to Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.

Camp, however, really gets going with the first full-squad workout Aug. 1, and the roster will shrink to 53 before the season opener Sept. 13 against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.

Here are five story lines to monitor heading into camp (You can read a breakdown of the top five position battles here and a complete, position-by-position breakdown here).

Reinforcements for Poe

Nose tackle Dontari Poe has carried a tremendous workload the last two seasons. That cannot continue. The Chiefs must unearth someone who can spell him for a few plays. Mike DeVito worked some at nose during OTAs, and is an obvious fit.

Can the Chiefs protect the quarterback?

This is a huge deal. Alex Smith took a beating last season, and much of this can be attributed to the line’s inability to consistently hold up in pass protection and identify stunts and blitzes. If the line doesn’t protect Smith better, the upgrades they made at receiver this offseason will matter little, and the offense won’t take the next step.

Turnovers a must

Championship teams force turnovers, and the Chiefs’ league-worst 13 takeaways a year ago was an unacceptable number. The Chiefs had far too many dropped interceptions, and will likely need to convert some of those if they hope to make the playoffs.

Who will snap?

Don’t laugh. There will be lots of pressure on James Winchester and Andrew East, who are both competing for the starting job. No one notices long snappers until they screw up, and the Chiefs better make sure they pick the right guy, lest they regret it come the regular season.

No. 2 tight end

Travis Kelce is rock-solid starting option, but the depth behind him is less than proven. Chiefs coach Andy Reid is good at getting the most out of his personnel, but the Chiefs used a ton of two tight end sets a year ago, so no matter what, they will still need someone — be it Demetrius Harris, James O’Shaughnessy or Richard Gordon — to emerge as a fairly reliable pass catching and run-blocking option.

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TerezPaylor.

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