[Kansas City.com] The notion was nothing new to Dick Vermeil, not after he spent the last two weeks watching the Chiefs’ revamped group of linebackers.
He still couldn’t help but marvel after practice Tuesday about the differences a year makes.
“We’ve never had three at a time that can move collectively like they can move,” Vermeil said, referring to starting linebackers Derrick Johnson, Kawika Mitchell and Kendrell Bell. “We really haven’t seen Kendrell Bell. We hope he can move like we thought he could when we brought him here. We haven’t turned him loose yet. Sooner or later, we’ve got to turn him loose and find out if he can move like the other guys do. We know he used to be able to do it.”
The Chiefs have been cautious with Bell at training camp because of nagging injuries, but they are showing no serious concern that he won’t be ready for the regular season.
Perhaps that’s because an injury at linebacker is no longer a cause for panic. An invasion of young players the last two seasons is bearing fruit. This year, the Chiefs added rookies Johnson, Boomer Grigsby and Kris Griffin. Last year, it was Keyaron Fox and Rich Scanlon.
Johnson will start, and the other four are strong candidates to make the team.
As a result, the Chiefs might carry eight linebackers – and former starter Scott Fujita could find it difficult to claim a roster spot. Gary Stills, a valuable special-teams player but a liability at linebacker, may also get squeezed out.
The crunch will get even tighter when Shawn Barber, another former starter, returns from a knee injury later in the season.
“I don’t think any of our linebackers necessarily need to be resting on their laurels, because we’ve got more depth at that position than I’ve ever witnessed on a football team,” Chiefs vice president of football operations Lynn Stiles said. “We’ve got Griffin. We’ve got Grigsby. We’ve got Scanlon. And don’t forget we’re going to get Shawn Barber back at some time. He’s a pretty good football player, too.”