A look at the defensive rookies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Earlier, I took a brief look at the Kansas City Chiefs’ four offensive rookies. Here is an examination of the defensive rookies:

Linebacker Nico Johnson: The Chiefs drafted Johnson in the fourth round hoping he could compete for a starting spot at the inside linebacker spot next to Derrick Johnson. Johnson’s challenge never materialized in part because he injured an ankle during the preseason and partly because his competition, veteran Akeem Jordan, has played so well. So Johnson has played in just four games and even then only on special teams. Johnson could eventually challenge for a starting spot but he would most likely be a first-and second-down player.

Defensive back Sanders Commings: A fifth-round pick, Commings broke his collarbone in the first practice of training camp and was moved off injured reserve and on to the active roster only this week. Commings was playing as an extra safety on passing downs at the time of his injury. He also has the ability to play at cornerback. The Chiefs have built some impressive depth in the secondary without Commings, so his role other than perhaps on special teams is uncertain for the rest of the season. But his return comes at an interesting time, with the Chiefs facing the passing game of the Denver Broncos in two of their next three games. Commings may have a role on passing downs. Otherwise, he could eventually be a starter at safety.

Defensive end Mike Catapano: He has already given the Chiefs more than the typical seventh-round pick. He now has a high ankle sprain that should keep him out a few more weeks, but before the injury Catapano played at times as a situational pass-rusher. That may be all Catapano ever becomes, though he won’t ever become a premier pass-rusher and he could develop eventually into a starter.

Cornerback Marcus Cooper: To this point, at least, Cooper has been the Chiefs’ most valuable rookie. A seventh-round pick this season of the San Francisco 49ers, he joined Kansas City off waivers at the start of the regular season and quickly showed he had the skills to play the press coverage the Chiefs want from their cornerbacks. At 6-2, Cooper has the necessary size to match up with bigger, more physical receivers. A wide receiver in college, he has showed great instincts, ball awareness and he reacts well to the ball. Cooper has been the third cornerback, coming on the field in passing situations. He will at some point become an every-down player, perhaps as soon as next season.