Defensive changes will help Chiefs when they begin camp

A revamped Chiefs defense will follow seventh-year safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has filled the leadership void left by Eric Berry and Justin Houston. Tammy Ljungblad/The Kansas City Star via AP

The Chiefs open training camp on July 27 at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. Here's a closer look at a few storylines:

Will the considerable defensive changes make a difference?

They can't hurt. The Chiefs can't be much worse than last year, when their defensive deficiencies kept them out of the Super Bowl. The Chiefs, with their potent offense, don't need to be dominant on defense. They need to be competent and that's an achievable goal. Kansas City, with Steve Spagnuolo as the new defensive coordinator, will be better coached. There are also as many as seven new defensive starters, led by safety Tyrann Mathieu and end Frank Clark. They are too talented on defense to rank near the bottom once again.

What's reasonable to expect from Patrick Mahomes in Year 2?

Mahomes set a standard in his first full season as a starter that's going to be difficult for him to match in 2019. He threw 50 TD passes and for more than 5,000 yards and was named the NFL's MVP. He doesn't have to exceed those numbers or be the MVP again for this season to be a success. He does need to keep Kansas City as one of the NFL's highest-scoring teams. That won't be an easy task with the Chiefs in their first full season without Kareem Hunt. The burden on Mahomes might be greater than it was last season, but he should be able to carry it.

How much help will Mecole Hardman provide as a rookie?

At a minimum, Hardman should provide a threat as the kickoff and possibly the punt return specialist. The Chiefs thought he was the best returner available this year in the draft. He didn't appear, during offseason practice, to be as advanced as a receiver; his contributions on offense might be limited, at least early in the season. With Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson available, Hardman might not get a lot of receiving chances. But the Chiefs will look for ways to put his speed to good use.

What will Damien Williams give the Chiefs in his first full season as a featured back?

It's not unreasonable to expect Williams to produce like he did after inheriting the starting job last year. Counting the playoffs, Williams averaged almost 6 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns over the final five games. But plenty of backs can excel for a short period of time. The job gets exponentially more difficult with each passing game. The Chiefs won't be patient with Williams for long if he's not productive, not with Carlos Hyde, Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson waiting for a turn.

Is this the year Sammy Watkins fulfills his immense potential?

Watkins turned only 26 in June, so it doesn't feel like a make-or-break season for him in that sense. But this will be his sixth NFL season, so it's natural to wonder whether he will ever break through if he doesn't in 2019. He will never have a better chance for a big season, given this will be his second with Mahomes at quarterback. But Watkins will need to be far more consistent than he was last year, when he missed six games with injuries and was often an afterthought in the passing game when he was in the lineup.