Johnson, Hunt, Hill and Jones are key Chiefs players to watch during the preseason

Some Chiefs players to watch during training camp that could make or break the 2017 campaign include Derrick Johnson, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones.

While there have been a lot of changes in the Kansas City Chiefs organization and front office this offseason, but the majority of the roster has stayed the same.

Apart from the draft and free agency moves, the core of the team has stayed together.

Certain players will have key parts in whether the Chiefs will return to the playoffs and make a Super Bowl run again, but there’s also some questions, like any year.

Here’s what to watch for with these key players:


Chiefs Players to Watch: Derrick Johnson

Johnson is one of the best linebackers in team history, but how much does he have left? He will turn 35 in November and is coming off Achilles tendon surgery.

A few years ago, when he was healthy, Johnson was one of the top linebackers in the league. With his age and last season’s injury, it is difficult to forecast if he can return to that same level or close to it.

The Chiefs need him at a high level with the struggles they had against the run last season. Their defense gave up an average of 121 rushing yards per game, seventh most in the NFL. The Chiefs need someone or something to help strengthen their run defense, especially since they’ll face top rushers like Marshawn Lynch (twice), Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliot this season.

We probably won’t see Johnson play much during the preseason, but his performance in camp will tell whether or not he’s recovered from his surgery. While this might be one of his last seasons in Kansas City, the team needs him at full health to help correct a 2016 weakness.


Chiefs Players to Watch: Kareem Hunt

Hunt has the potential to be the team’s next great rusher in the future, but what about this season?

With Jamaal Charles gone, there’s an open competition for the top running back position and Hunt, a third-round pick out of Toledo, definitely has a shot in it. He may not be the biggest or fastest back, but Hunt has great field vision, something that made Priest Holmes so successful and is essential for any running back.

With Hunt being a rookie, he should get plenty of reps during the preseason so we can get a better idea of what he can do against an NFL defense.

The Chiefs need someone to step up at running back. Spencer Ware started last season strong, but after his week eight concussion he never performed as well the rest of the season. The Chiefs’ running game has room to improve, ranking 15th in the league with a 109.2 average rushing yards per game in 2016.

If Hunt can make a strong impression before the season starts, he might be the answer to improving the Chiefs offense this season and for the future.


Chiefs Players to Watch: Tyreek Hill

Hill was one of the most dynamic players in the NFL last season. He was named an All-Pro returner and ranked No. 36 in the NFL players’ poll of the top 100 players. Coming into this season, the Chiefs want to find ways to get the ball to Hill more often.

Hill showed he can use his speed in many different roles last season, and the Chiefs took advantage. Not only did they use him as a returner and receiver, Hill lined up occasionally at running back. Will the Chiefs do the same or have him stick to a receiver/returner role.

With Jeremy Maclin gone, the Chiefs could use Hill as just a receiver to give them a threat on the outside and help open up others in the passing game. However, with Charles in a Broncos uniform, the Chiefs could use a speedy threat in the backfield and Hill has shown he is more than capable in that role.

No matter where he lines up, Hill will get a lot of opportunities to make some plays.


Chiefs Players to Watch: Chris Jones

Jones needs to have a big presence on the defensive line for KC to be successful. Jones had a good season, named to the All-Rookie team, but he is coming off July knee surgery and opened camp on the physically unable to perform list. Can Jones step-up and improve this season or will he regress?

Jones stood out among some talented players in the defensive line rotation last year. He actually led all Chiefs defensive lineman in tackles (28), sacks (2), and passes defended (4). While Jones has momentum from his performance last season, the rest of the D-line has some unknowns surrounding it with all the changes made.

Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard are no longer with the team, but the Chiefs signed free agent Bennie Logan and drafted Tanoh Kpassagnon to help replace them. While they look like good additions, there are questions on how the defensive line will be this season.

If Jones has a similar or better season than 2016, the Chiefs could have a solid defensive front to improve their pass rush and help fix their problems against the run. If Jones regresses, things could get ugly. The entire defensive line will be interesting to watch during the preseason, but the focus will be on Jones to see if he improves, how the surgery affects him and if he develops into a front-seven leader.

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Article by Drew Parks

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