Camp is officially underway for many teams as they begin to prepare for the upcoming season. The Chiefs have made the AFC Championship game in three consecutive seasons but it is a razor-thin margin for error and the Kansas City Chiefs position battles could be what extends or breaks that streak.
The Chiefs spent the off-season upgrading the offensive line tremendously and filling other positions with depth. The biggest area of need the team didn’t fill was at wide receiver. The lack of talent and proven depth behind Tyreek Hill is startling. The linebacker spot is filled with young talent but can it overcome incumbent veterans? With so much depth among the offensive line, who can step up and win their battle for rights to protect the face of the NFL in Patrick Mahomes?
The upcoming season feels like a relative unknown despite AFC dominance over the last two years. For a team as good as the Chiefs have been, they have a plethora of holes and questions. These four Chiefs position battles can be the difference between once again winning the AFC or falling short of the ultimate prize. With that said, here are the Chiefs’ key position battles to watch for.
2021 Chiefs Position Battles: Offense
Right Tackle| Mike Remmers vs Lucas Niang
Last year, the Chiefs drafted Lucas Niang in the third round to be their right tackle. He opted out of the season but is a full go in 2021. The team also brought back Mike Remmers, their starter in Super Bowl LV, in free agency. Niang was a dominant right tackle in college. In 975 snaps he didn’t allow a single sack. After opting out, however, 2021 is essentially his rookie season. Remmers is entering his tenth season and has started in two Super Bowls. Is it a coincidence that both of Remmers’ Super Bowl teams lost after the offensive line was decimated by the opposing pass rush?
The offensive line was the key reason the Chiefs 2020 season fell short. That makes the job for the right tackle spot one of the most important position battles during camp. The battle will likely come down to if the Chiefs want to go with what is essentially a rookie or someone that is a better depth piece than a starter but is a veteran who is a known commodity.
#2 Wide Receiver| Mecole Hardman vs Demarcus Robinson
With Sammy Watkins departing in free agency and the team choosing not to bring in a bigger name, the WR2 spot is one of the most intriguing, if not worrisome, Chiefs’ key position battles. Mecole Hardman is entering his third season with the team but hasn’t shown much outside of being a gadget player with incredible speed. Demarcus Robinson has been signed to a one-year contract out of free agency in the last two years for the Chiefs.
This will be Robinson’s sixth year with the team and he arguably had the best season of his career last season so as of now he is the favorite to start opposite of Tyreek Hill. Hardman is a dangerous playmaker with the ball in his hands. His speed cannot be matched in the NFL. The issue is getting him the ball in non-gadget type plays. Can he develop enough of a route tree to become a reliable wide receiver or will he remain a more one-dimensional player that can only use speed?
Both bring something to the table whether it’s just experience and knowledge or blazing speed. The winner of this Chiefs’ key positional battle will be monumental for the offense in 2021.
Right Guard| Laurent Duvernay-Tardif vs Kyle Long
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opted out in 2020 and his presence was sorely missed and a big reason why the offensive line collapsed in the Super Bowl. Having Duvernay-Tardif back will be huge for the team but they also signed Kyle Long in free agency. Long retired after 2019, and like Duvernay-Tardif, will be back after missing a year.
Both players have played at high levels. Both are veterans who are trusted players. Only one can win this Chiefs’ key position battle, though, and the other will provide high-end depth. Health will likely be a big factor in this battle. Long retired after 2019 due to injuries in four consecutive years that saw him miss significant time each year.
Was he able to rest his body and fully heal in his off-year? Duvernay-Tardif has been with the Chiefs his entire eight-year career so his knowledge of the system and chemistry with the team will make him the favorite to win the job as of now. After seeing the offensive line fail last season, this will be one of the most important Chiefs position battles.
2021 Chiefs Position Battles: Defense
Linebacker| Ben Niemann vs Nick Bolton
Ben Niemann will be entering his fourth season with the Chiefs after they re-signed him in free agency. Niemann has become the incumbent third linebacker for the team. The Chiefs drafted Nick Bolton in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Chiefs have shown they are trying to go in a younger more athletic direction with their linebackers after drafting linebackers in the second round in consecutive drafts. At the same time, they’ve shown they prefer to rely on their veteran linebackers and bring the rookies along slowly. The Chiefs linebackers have been bad for several years now and Niemann has been part of the problem. Bolton is a physical presence that makes himself known in the run game.
He is the exact type of player the Chiefs need at linebacker. Will the team stick with Niemann due to his experience and bring the rookie along slowly, as they did with Willie Gay Jr., or will they give the more promising player his shot? This will be a very interesting one to watch for the entirety of camp, for sure.
Thanks for reading my article on the four biggest Kansas City Chiefs position battles in their 2021 training camp. Follow me on Twitter @Hobby_Connect for more content and NFL talk!