Of all the training camp and preseason position battles for the Kansas City Chiefs, the most interesting has to be that of the second middle linebacker spot alongside Derrick Johnson. The two candidates are Akeem Jordan, a veteran brought in from Philladelphia Eagles by Andy Reid, and Nico Johnson, a 2013 NFL draft fourth round pick.
Through two games it seems like it is a dead heat between the two, both having strengths that the other does not. Jordan is a faster, better coverage linebacker with some pass rush ability, while Johnson is a run specialist, as he was with Alabama this past season when they won the title, but has surprised some with pass rush ability getting a sack against the San Francisco 49ers. I did see Johnson cover decently in the first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, but he looked hesitant and indecisive at times in coverage. If he can improve on his reaction times in pass coverage he might steal the position outright.
Meanwhile, Jordan has been a stud so far this preseason, already recording a sack in limited time with the first and second teams. He is a veteran, knows Reid well and also has been good against the run in the first two games.
So who wins the battle? It comes down to potential vs. veteran presence and stability. Nico Johnson has all the tools to become the starter, has a higher ceiling but a lower floor, and has often laid the wood on many players during practice and games. But he is just finding his stride and needs time to develop the skills in pass coverage. Jordan is a veteran with a higher floor but potentially little to no ceiling above that floor. If it were me I would go with the rookie Johnson. He will struggle at first, but by mid-season he should find his game and produce at a high level.
Reid, however, might just go with Johnson on run downs and Jordan on passing downs. But for me, I would like to see what Johnson and Johnson — Insert nickname here — can do on the inside, because you know what you’re getting with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston on the outside.