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Chiefs sorting through multiple linebacking candidates

Derrick Johnson has a claim on one starting linebacking spot, but the Chiefs have a bunch of players competing for the other. Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Josh Mauga was a starting inside linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014 and 2015 before relinquishing his spot there last year because of an injury. He's no sure thing to get his job back this year because the Chiefs have a crowd of players at his position the size of which Mauga hasn't seen in his time in Kansas City.

"Our depth in our linebacking room, I mean we're running out of chairs in the room we've got so many guys in there," Mauga said. "But it's good because the competition raises everybody's level."

That's what the Chiefs are hoping for. They have five players who started at least one game for them at some point in the past two seasons. They also recently traded for an inside linebacker, Kevin Pierre-Louis, and drafted Ukeme Eligwe of Georgia Southern in the fifth round.

Derrick Johnson will claim one starting spot, meaning the Chiefs have a bunch of players competing for the other starting spot and at best three backup positions.

Ramik Wilson is a returning starter and is getting plenty of work in practice, but the Chiefs still are searching for that starter. They've rotated others into the starting lineup, Pierre-Louis and Eligwe included.

"You try to [move] guys up sometimes with different groups to see how they're going to play against really good competition, but also how they respond to the other guys around them," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "We've got some good competition at that position. We obviously have a long way to go at camp so we're going to get a lot of different guys reps in here. I think that will be good for us."

The Chiefs have been impressed so far with Pierre-Louis, who will be a serious contender for a starting spot if he continues to play as he has.

"I remember he was an explosive guy coming out of college," Sutton said of Pierre-Louis, who was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. "I remember him well. In the time he has been here, he has demonstrated he has really good suddenness and quickness. Good instincts. I think he is going to be a physical guy. He is not the biggest guy in the world, but he plays very physical and we are excited to have him."

The Chiefs traded one of their best special teams players, D.J. Alexander, for Pierre-Louis.

"Obviously, I think so," Sutton said when asked whether Pierre-Louis has a better chance to play on defense than Alexander would have. "We made that trade. I hope that's it. He is a good football player. I remember evaluating him when he came out. I think he is going to be fine and he is going to be a good addition for us if he keeps going."