Training camps are underway around the NFL, and that means it's full speed ahead (for now) in the lead-up to the 2020 season. With the entire preseason schedule wiped out as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams will have more pressure than ever to analyze position battles and make key lineup decisions for the fall.
Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, the Kansas City Chiefs would appear not to be at too much of a disadvantage because of their 2019 success -- and, you know, the fact that Patrick Mahomes is their quarterback. But that would be underselling some of the vital competitions set to occur in their camp. A number of the Chiefs' biggest positional battles could have a big effect on Mahomes' supporting cast in K.C.'s bid to repeat as champions.
Here are five of the most important ones to keep an eye on:
1. Right guard
If your QB is Mahomes, you can get by without a starting offensive lineman or two. But the decision by first-team RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif to opt out of the 2020 season instantly made this the most important battle. Kelechi Osemele has a Pro Bowl resume and was a smart low-risk, high-reward addition to step in on Opening Day, but he's also 33 and played just 14 games the last two years. Realistically, Andy Reid will be open to benching or rotating Osemele if one of Lucas Niang, Mike Remmers or Martinas Rankin can prove competent on the interior. This one matters mostly because it's all about keeping Mahomes upright.
A Super Bowl-winning secondary that returns its top two players at both corner and safety would seemingly lack much camp competition. But things aren't so simple here. Tyrann Mathieu's versatility should help offset any weaknesses, but starter Bashaud Breeland is facing a four-game suspension to open the year, and the guys behind Charvarius Ward are rather unproven. Unless Brett Veach has a surprise move still up his sleeve, the Chiefs are counting on someone to step up from a slew of rookie or former undrafted products, from fourth-rounder L'Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton to Chris Lammons and Alex Brown.
3. Running back
Another position affected by an opt-out, this one courtesy of Super Bowl LIV star Damien Williams. It's easy to pinpoint first-rounder Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the No. 1 RB now that Williams is out of the picture for 2020, and Reid will undoubtedly find creative ways to use the LSU product. This is still an offensive juggernaut that's long deployed a backfield rotation, however, so even with limited touches, the No. 2 job has value. Former Raiders reserve DeAndre Washington flashed big-play ability earlier in his career and was decent as a pass catcher in 2019, but Darwin Thompson, his chief competition, has a year in the Chiefs' system.
This has nothing to do with Mahomes' job and everything to do with insurance for him. During a pandemic, the reality is K.C. has to be prepared to start a game -- or more -- without No. 15. It's probably partly why the team re-signed 2019 spot starter Matt Moore this summer despite already paying another 35-year-old backup in Chad Henne to stick around. And then you've got former XFL standout Jordan Ta'amu in the fold as a developmental option. Ta'amu is a long shot to crack the roster, but the No. 2 spot really is one to watch here. Do the Chiefs let Moore retain the top backup role and quarantine Henne for an emergency? Or vice-versa?
5. Defensive end
The Chiefs have a premiere pass rusher in Frank Clark, and they just secured another disruptive front-four presence in Chris Jones. But there are serious questions beyond those two when it comes to getting pressure in the trenches. Alex Okafor's ceiling probably isn't much higher than he's already shown, and the rest of the DE cupboard is a grab bag of mid- to low-tier reserves: Breeland Speaks, Taco Charlton, Demone Harris, Tanoh Kpassagnon. The Chiefs need someone to step up as a rotational presence. Maybe it's fifth-rounder Mike Danna, who should get a chance at early action.