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Five Storylines to Follow at Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp
July 21, 2017 11:30 PM | BJ Kissel
We're less than 50 days from the start of the 2017 NFL season, and while it tends to sneak up on the rest of us every year, the Kansas City Chiefs coaches and players know what's coming as they begin preparations for a season full of optimism at training camp next week.

The quarterbacks, rookies, and players coming off injuries report to the campus of Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri-site of Chiefs' training camp for the last seven years-Monday afternoon.



The rest of the veteran players will report on Thursday.

Here are five storylines to follow at training camp this year:

1. All eyes on Justin Houston

Since 2013, there's not a player in the NFL who has created more havoc for opposing quarterbacks than Chiefs' linebacker Justin Houston.

According to Pro Football Focus, Houston has a pressure percentage of 18.41 percent over that time, which basically means that he's had a sack, hurry or quarterback hit on a higher percentage of pass-rushign snaps than the likes of the Broncos' Von Miller, or the Texans' J.J. Watt.

In 2014, Houston set the NFL world on fire by flirting with Michael Strahan's NFL record of 22.5 sacks in a season, which was set in 2001. Houston finished with 22.



But over the last two seasons, Houston has played in just 16 games because of a knee injury, including playing in just five games last year.

During OTAs this past Spring, a brace-less Houston was running around and seemed completely unaffected uninhibited from an injury that's been the story of his last two seasons.

When healthy, Houston is one of the most dominant defensive players in the league, and based on his comments during OTAs, there's reason to believe we'll see the Houston that kept opposing quarterbacks up at night again this season.

"I feel great, now," Houston told the media during OTAs. "Last year, I couldn't even run at this time. So, it's night-and-day different. I feel great to be able to get up and go and not even think about it."

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Houston will be a guy to watch and a story to follow at camp this year. His health and ability would take an already-great defense to another level.

2. The battle at inside linebacker

Even before the signing of veteran linebacker and familiar-face in Josh Mauga a few weeks ago, the inside linebacker position was one to watch at camp this year.

Mauga, who missed all of last season with a hip injury, spent the previous two seasons with the Chiefs-accumulating 161 tackles and making 30 starts.

But with young guys like Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Justin March-Lillard and Terrance Smith-all of whom found snaps last year at linebacker-the battle was already on for who was going to find snaps for Bob Sutton's defense.

Mauga's presence only adds more competition, which is a great thing for such a key spot in this defense.

Overall, this is a defense that ranks second in the NFL over the past four years by allowing less than 19 points per game, but also one that allowed 126.1 yards rushing per game last year, which ranked 26th in the NFL.

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While it's a group effort in run defense, and the offseason addition of defensive tackle Bennie Logan-a known run stuffer-should help, the competition for this spot will be a fun one to watch at camp to see who will play alongside the franchise's all-time leading tackler, Derrick Johnson.

3. The availability of guys coming off injuries

There were a few key players who didn't participate in offseason workouts for the Chiefs because they were coming off injuries.

Tight end Travis Kelce had offseason shoulder surgery and didn't participate in any capacity. Johnson, who is coming off his second Achilles injury over the past three years, didn't do any team work, but did some of the individual work at the beginning of each practice.



Obviously, those are a couple of key names that carry storylines headed into camp as far as their availability.

A few of the other players to keep in mind coming off injuries are outside linebacker Dadi Nicolas, who was injured in the regular season finale against the Chargers, and offensive lineman Parker Ehinger, who was lost for the season after a knee injury Week 7 against the Colts.



4. The battle for the cornerback spot opposite of Marcus Peters

This storyline should come with the caveat that third-year player and former 2015 third-round pick, Steven Nelson, has earned a starting position with the defense. He led all Chiefs' cornerbacks with 1,011 snaps played last year-splitting time outside, as well as inside at nickelback.

Nelson would often play outside when opposing offenses weren't in 11 personnel (three receiver sets), but when they would try and spread out the Chiefs defense and bring a third receiver on the field, Nelson would slide down to the nickel spot and another cornerback would come onto the field.



It's that particular spot that is an interesting spot to watch at camp this year.

Some of the guys competing for it would be veteran Phillip Gaines, the late-season bloomer from last year, Terrance Mitchell, Kenneth Acker, D.J. White, and DeVante Bausby. Those guys all have NFL experience.

While Peters has held down his side of the field pretty well-hauling in a league-high 14 interceptions over the past two years, the jig is up and quarterbacks already know it's a gamble to test that side of the field.

With Peters being targeted significantly less last year than his rookie season (151 to 91), whomever wins that battle on the opposite side will be in line to make some plays.

5. The new faces get an opportunity to shine for Chiefs Kingdom

There's no hiding the fact that Chiefs fans are excited to see the rookie Texas gunslinger toss it around at camp this year, and for first-round pick Patrick Mahomes, the opportunity at camp is to about developing and learning how to play at this level under veteran starter Alex Smith and Tyler Bray.



In that regard, Mahomes is in the perfect spot, which has also already been confirmed by two of coach Andy Reid's former disciples-Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb.

Fans will also get a chance to see a gigantic human being up close in person in second-round pick Tanoh Kpassaganon.

At camp, the defensive linemen go through their individual work in the corner of one of the fields, and it's an area fans can really get close to while these guys go through their drills.

Perhaps the player with the most "buzz" throughout the offseason, as far as what he could potentially bring to the team sooner rather than later, is running back Kareem Hunt.

The University of Toledo's all-time leading rusher will get a chance to show that the ability he displayed during offseason workouts will translate once the pads come on at practice.

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For a full breakdown of training camp dates and important information, check out Chiefs.com/trainingcamp.

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