5 Players Who Might Find Themselves on Kansas City Chiefs' 2014 Practice Squad
In football, the practice squad is professional purgatory.
Though 53 players will crack the Kansas City Chiefs' regular-season roster, only 46 will suit up on Sundays.
The remaining eight are left on an island of uncertainty. Paid interns who tormentingly twiddle their thumbs on game days, praying for opportunities but knowing the unemployment line is a stone's throw away.
But with names like Arian Foster and James Harrison still roaming NFL fields, "practice squad" is no longer the athletic stigma that it was once considered. If anything, it's more indicative of (in)experience than talent.
With preseason less than a month away, five names are primed for the Kansas City practice squad.
David Van Dyke, CB/S, No. 27
UDFA David Van Dyke totes the required length and speed to excel in press-man.
However, the bulk of his collegiate snaps resided at the back end of the defense, so inexperience and rusty technique will, in all likelihood, foil any active-roster aspirations. But if all else fails, top-tier athleticism and laudable closing speed may see the Chiefs experiment with him at deep safety—a role that he was often assigned at Tennessee State.
Regardless, the secondary is riddled with questions.
Now-division-rival Brandon Flowers has turned into Cameron Diaz from Vanilla Sky. The oft-burned Sean Smith is (allegedly, per The Kansas City Star) taking out lights like that baby-tooth-snatching nightmare from Darkness Falls. And the other corners have as many snaps to their name as Chad Johnson has parking tickets.
Chad Johnson's inability to read French is resulting in him racking up a lot of parking tickets in Montreal http://t.co/W34ohJ2aWR— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 9, 2014
Van Dyke won't crack the active 46, but with a year or two under his belt, his skill set can be molded into that of a future contributor.
Charcandrick West, RB, No. 35
Charcandrick West is basically the Juggernaut (NSFW) meets Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. He runs like a bite-sized Bane being chased by Wile E. Coyote.
West needs to improve his patience, allowing blockers to carve lanes ahead of him. And his fate ultimately rests on his hands and blitz protection.
But there's little doubt that, once pads begin thwacking in training camp, the newcomer will draw "oohs" from the crowd on a regular basis. West rivals Cyrus Gray in frame and speed, but he boasts eye-opening balance and an ironclad will that separates him from the average dime-a-dozen halfback.
Albert Wilson, WR, No. 8
Wilson is a shifty speedster who poses a threat in the slot, as well as when returning kicks.
He isn't without his flaws. In college, pressing corners occasionally rerouted him at the line, and he's prone to turning upfield before securing catches, resulting in balls plummeting to the field and fans palming their foreheads.
However, 4.38 40-yard-dash speed can't be taught, and he's an open-field playmaker with obvious upside.
Plus, Wilson, who will turn 22 years old this month, is considerably younger than Weston Dressler, who's pushing 30.
Demetrius Harris, TE, No. 47
Demetrius Harris and Sean McGrath will clash for the third and final roster spot at tight end.
If you were unfamiliar with the Chiefs last season, the latter wasn't hard to spot. McGrath looked like a mountaineer whose bye week consisted of painting his face with puma blood and yelling "Valhalla!" while spearing elk.
Currently, the now-beardless vet is the more fundamentally sound player.
However, Harris, whose 23rd birthday falls at the tail end of July, is a towering 6'7" up-and-comer who's slowly but surely transitioning from his basketball background. And he, if anyone, is on his way to becoming a paragon for what the practice squad offers, telling KCChiefs.com's Rachel Santschi:
In high school we had wristbands, so they would call a play and we could look down and I would know the route. Now, it's different. I know so much more now than I did last year. It took me a year to really get it all down, so I’m glad I had time on the practice squad to develop, learn and improve.
Harris' hands seesaw between glue-like and buttered, as he's liable to reel in an eyebrow-raising reception on one down and drop a surefire spiral the next.
But if his talent rounds the learning curb, and he improves in the nuances of the position (e.g., selling routes), the second-year prospect will be promoted to the active roster—at the expense of McGrath—before season's end.
Aaron Murray, QB, No. 7
OK, time to delve into technicalities. (Control your enthusiasm.)
More or less, the average ticket holder equates "practice squad" with "projects who won't play." And in all likelihood, that will prove to be Aaron Murray's first-year scenario.
So, from the outside looking in, adding the fifth-round passer (and part-time reality star) to the 53-man roster is seemingly pointless.
Aaron Murray's Bachelorette debut. pic.twitter.com/zJfcCFhZnR— Busted Coverage (@bustedcoverage) July 8, 2014
On the other hand, planting him on the practice squad poses a gamble, and rivals will certainly entertain the thought of rolling their dice.
Excluding a few exceptions, any practice squad player can be plucked by a different club at any given time. However, said players can't be added to another team's practice squad unless they're released prior to the transaction.
Kansas City's roster already features a trio of capable quarterbacks—Alex Smith, Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray—throwing a wrench into Murray's 2014 plans.
Like many a practice squad member, odds are that the rookie won't record a single regular-season snap this year. Considering that, the team might relegate him to injured reserve (IR), which would prohibit him from practicing (or playing) until, at the very least, Week 7.
Regardless of choice, it's a slippery slope.
The Chiefs can throw caution to the wind, place the passer on the practice squad and promote him if they get wind of any outside interest. Or, they can securely park him on IR, forcing him to forfeit any on-field reps in the process.
While Murray hosts a level of potential that can, at some point, be molded into that of a full-time starter, he won't be expected to contribute this season. And with the aforementioned three occupying the depth chart, it makes little sense to throw an ACL-rehabbing rookie into the lion's den, retaining four active quarterbacks in the process.
However, if Andy Reid plans for Murray to enter 2015 with any (meaningful) experience to fall back on, he may have no other choice.
Combine results provided by NFL Draft Scout.
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