Even during the dog days of an NFL offseason, it's easy to get lost looking at the bigger picture of a team's roster. Sometimes, it's easier to break things down into position groups and get a clearer look at things. That certainly applies to the Kansas City Chiefs' wide receivers and linebackers.
Both groups will see some changes this season after offseason departures and acquisitions. At wide receiver, Sammy Watkins has moved on to an in-conference foe in the Baltimore Ravens. As far as linebackers go, the team's major loss was Damien Wilson. Wilson also went to an AFC team, joining the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Chiefs' major additions at each group came via the draft. Cornell Powell and Nick Bolton are slated to become contributors in year one after playing well in college. Arrowhead Report's Sam Hays joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to provide a fresh perspective on both positions.
Behind star receiver Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs' wideouts differ in talent level and skill set. Demarcus Robinson projects to be the No. 2 option as of now, but Powell's ability to do the little things — run crisp routes, gain and maintain separation, beat press coverage, track the ball — makes him a very intriguing option. Byron Pringle also has prototypical "X" size but hasn't gotten much of a chance to produce in the past.
Outside of the aforementioned group, Mecole Hardman could benefit from general uncertainty elsewhere (outside of Hill). The third-year slot receiver was expected to make a leap last season, although he failed to do so. Perhaps an increase in targets could highlight his progression more. Antonio Callaway is on the outside looking in, especially when considering he's years removed from his best campaign.
On defense, the leader of the linebacking corps is undoubtedly Anthony Hitchens. The veteran looked much more comfortable last season and played some of the best football of his career as a result. Behind him, Willie Gay Jr. may be poised for a second-year jump. The rangy linebacker is brimming with potential.
Last but not least, Bolton's awareness, football acumen and ability to diagnose plays quickly should help him carve out a role as a rookie. It remains to be seen whether he can challenge someone like Ben Niemann for reps as the dime linebacker in the team's sub-package, but there's a great chance he progresses at a faster rate than Gay did in 2020.
The Chiefs' depth at wide receiver and linebacker will certainly be put to the test this season. Players who haven't always played big roles may find themselves being relied upon throughout the year. Thanks to some solid draft choices and anticipated progression for others, that shouldn't be a problem. Both groups are in decent spots heading into 2021.
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