Red Zone

Projecting the Chiefs’ final 53-man roster

jsleezer@kcstar.com

With the Chiefs tasked with trimming their roster from 76 to 53 men by 3 p.m. Saturday, here’s The Star’s final 53-man roster projection. I even projected some of the candidates for the 10-man practice squad — don’t hold me to these, as eligibility for the practice squad is incredibly difficult to determine. I just read the rules and did the best I could.

QUARTERBACK (3)

Made it: Alex Smith, Nick Foles, Tyler Bray

Cut: Aaron Murray

Practice squad: Kevin Hogan

Analysis: Bray outperformed Murray this preseason, while Hogan flashed in OTAs but not in games. Both would be eligible for the practice squad. The Chiefs prefer not to cut drafted rookies, so maybe that will help Murray.

RUNNING BACK (5)

Made it: Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Anthony Sherman, Darrin Reaves

Cut: Knile Davis

Analysis: The top four should be set, but Davis’ kick-return ability gives him a chance to make the roster. Reaves also has a shot if the Chiefs are at all gun-shy about Charles, who they don’t need to rush back from an ACL injury.

RECEIVER (6)

Made it: Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, Rod Streater, Tyreek Hill, Demarcus Robinson

Cut: De’Anthony Thomas, Frankie Hammond

Practice squad: Da’Ron Brown

Analysis: The top two is rock-solid, while Wilson and Streater are experienced backup options. Carrying six receivers isn’t ideal, necessarily, but Hill and Robinson both flashed in preseason practices and Hill should carve out a role of some sort. Plus both were draft picks this year, and the Chiefs like to give current-year picks a season to develop at the very least.

TIGHT END (3)

Made it: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris, Ross Travis

Cut: James O’Shaughnessy

Practice squad: Brian Parker

Analysis: Travis consistently remained ahead of O’Shaughnessy for the third tight-end spot throughout the preseason. O’Shaughnessy could make it, though, especially given the Chiefs’ love for multiple-tight-end sets.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Made it: Eric Fisher, Parker Ehinger, Mitch Morse, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mitchell Schwartz, Zach Fulton, Jah Reid, Jarrod Pughsley

Cut: Reid Fragel, Daniel Munyer, Jordan Devey

Suspended: Zach Sterup

Analysis: The Chiefs might try to plucky a true swing tackle from the waiver wire this weekend; none of the options on the roster are great if left tackle Eric Fisher gets hurt. It is possible that one or two of the three players who are cut wind up on the practice squad.

The Chiefs got a good look at their backups in their final exhibition game of 2016 on Thursday, a 17-7 victory over Green Bay. And the competition between Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray for the No. 3 quarterback spot continued, with the game generall

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

Made it: Jaye Howard, Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey, Chris Jones, Nick Williams, Rakeem Nunez-Roches

Cut: David King

Practice squad: Jimmy Staten

Analysis: Williams is a versatile player who might have done enough Thursday night to lock up a roster spot. Nunez-Roches and King have both impressed this preseason, but Nunez-Roches’ status as a 2015 draft pick might give him the edge. King is good enough to play in this league, though. Staten also flashed but the Chiefs are too deep here.

LINEBACKERS (9)

Made it: Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, Derrick Johnson, Justin March-Lillard, Frank Zombo, Dezman Moses, Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Dadi Nicolas

Cut: Andy Mulumba, Tyrell Adams

Practice squad: Terrance Smith

IR/PUP: Justin Houston, Josh Mauga

Analysis: The Chiefs save a roster spot by putting Houston on the PUP list, so they can carry five edge rushers in case they need reinforcements at that spot. Moses gets the nod over Mulumba because when Nicolas came in Thursday, Mulumba is the one who sat. Smith leaped ahead of Alexander on the inside linebacker depth chart, but Alexander’s special-teams value might keep him safe. Smith is also practice-squad eligible.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Made it: Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson, Kenneth Acker, D.J. White, KeiVarae Russell

Cut: Marcus Cooper, Deveron Carr

Analysis: The acquisition of Acker probably wasn’t a good sign for Cooper, and neither was the handful of snaps he played Thursday night. Carr has earned some second-team reps here and there and would be a practice-squad candidate, provided he were eligible.

SAFETIES (4)

Made it: Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Daniel Sorensen, Eric Murray

Cut: Jamell Fleming, Jeron Johnson, Brock Vereen

Practice squad: Shakiel Randolph

Analysis: The top four is pretty solidified, with Vereen having a shot to make it due to his athleticism and experience. The odd men out in that scenario are Fleming, who didn’t play much Thursday night, and Johnson, who has a chance to make it, along with Vereen. Randolph has gotten some second-team looks throughout camp and has flashed occasionally in coverage. He might be worthy of a practice-squad look.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3)

Made it: Cairo Santos, Dustin Colquitt, James Winchester

Analysis: No surprises here.

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