The Kansas City Chiefs confirmed this week that starting safety Daniel Sorensen will be out for at least six weeks, meaning he will miss at least two games of the regular season.
Asked about his reaction to the news Sunday after practice back in St. Joseph, Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton recalled a conversation he had with the defense after the third day of 2018 training camp.
“There are people sitting here and you are sitting in that room thinking, ‘Well this is my position, this is my role,’” Sutton said. “We try to explain that every single year we have been here. There is a guy sitting in that position that’s ended up playing major minutes. That to me is the whole thing. You have to keep developing your team. We have some good players. We have a good group depth-wise and some good talent. They just have to take advantage of these opportunities, the guys that have to step up.”
Based upon practice rotations, that next man up for the Chiefs is Eric Murray, who the tream selected with a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft (our own Matt Lane has called Murray a Chief on the rise).
With Eric Berry also out Sunday due to a sore heel, Murray took the field next to rookie Armani Watts for some first-team reps on Sunday.
Watts, 22, led the Chiefs in defensive snaps during their first preseason game on Thursday night against the Houston Texans, and it wasn’t close (Breeland Speaks was next in line with 15 less plays). Watts’ snap count could indicate the Chiefs expect results from him sooner rather than later.
“I thought [he was] good,” Sutton said of Watts’ 49 plays. “He was far from perfect. He’s got a lot of little technique things he’s got to improve on. When you talk about having good eyes—the ability to stay on your coverage and all that—that’s all got to improve and some of this would be echoed in a lot of players on our unit there, but I thought overall, just going in there, [he] did a nice job.”
The Chiefs selected Watts with the No. 124 overall pick in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
“Armani is a guy that had really, really good game tape,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said at the time. “He was a guy that we liked. He’s a physical player ... He can play down low because he is physical, he is tough, loves to hit but he also has very good instincts and ball skills and he’s very good at anticipating routes.”
Even though Thursday night was Watts’ first opportunity as a professional, the former Texas A&M Aggie explained after the game that he felt unfazed.
“It was pretty normal out there,” Watts said. “I was excited, obviously, but just experiencing the spotlight it wasn’t too big for me. Playing at A&M, great stadium, obviously here at Kansas City, it felt just like I was home, the fans and everything. It felt great out there.”
While the injury to Sorensen is far from ideal, it felt like Sutton had already moved on Sunday. The depth at the safety position includes Watts and Murray, but it also includes veteran Robert Golden, as well Leon McQuay and Jordan Sterns.
“It’s an opportunity for someone and the opportunity isn’t just in your chance,” Sutton said. “Your opportunity is you’re going to get a lot more reps and you’re going to be involved in that, just like Armani was the other night, so that to me is the thing that happens.
“But yeah, a guy like [Armani], that certainly accelerates his chance and opportunities.”
In April, SB Nation called Watts the most clutch player available in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“I don’t know if you guys saw the Arkansas game in Texas stadium this year, he won the game the game in overtime just by anticipating a red-zone throw there,” Veach added, “so the guy has tremendous feel back there, so we think over time he can certainly develop into a starting safety.”
Welp, just like that, it’s time to shine.