While national analysts may be spending most of their time pondering what the Kansas City Chiefs offense will look like without Kareem Hunt (and possibly Tyreek Hill), most Chiefs fans are keeping their eyes on the defense under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who has to transition the Chiefs defense from the 3-4 scheme in which it has played for a full decade to the 4-3 Under scheme he prefers.
It won’t be easy.
But based on the comments from head coach Andy Reid after Thursday’s OTA session, things are moving along nicely.
“You’re not going to get the full offense or the full defense, because you can’t have contact up front,” Reid explained when he was asked about what he saw from the defensive unit. “It’s not like training camp. But I will tell you it’s very well organized. For the time they’ve had together, there are not a lot of holes in their coverages. I’ve been impressed by that.”
Reid said it helped that Spagnuolo has defensive assistants with whom he is familiar.
“Some of that has to do with being able to bring in assistant coaches who have been with Spags,” he said. “So they were able to hit the ground running. I think that pays off at camp like this. And then their communication with the players — knowing the defense, being able to communicate it and teach it — I’ve been impressed with that. I like what I’m seeing on defense.”
While Reid explained that the team is only three days in to a short session of practices, there was one thing he saw that he really liked.
“I sure like the enthusiasm, intensity, energy — all those things I like right now.”
Across the field from the defense, quarterback Patrick Mahomes liked what he saw, too.
“They’re getting after it, for sure,” Mahomes said. “First off, they’re doing a lot of different things and it’s hard to get a kind of a read on them. So it’s definitely challenging to the offense — especially the quarterback position — to kind of see what coverages they’re in.”
Mahomes said the defense was making things more difficult for him — but he thinks that’s a positive.
“I think it’s very helpful [that] they’re doing so many different coverages — so many different schemes, one-high, two-high,” he said. “Everything that they’re doing is really challenging me and it’s making me not necessarily have my first read every time. Every single time I have to adjust on the fly.”
Mahomes said that new Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark was making his life difficult, too.
“First off, other than just being extremely athletic and a heck of a pass rusher, he’s extremely smart,” he said of Clark. “It’s good to see that. When we’re on the field, he’s taking away some of my hot throws and some of my adjustments because he’s just playing football. Those guys are the ones that are really special. I think today I tried to throw a hot to Anthony Sherman and he just peeled off on it and made me throw the ball away. When you have guys who are that talented — and also smart like that — those are guys who are really special players.”
Mahomes said the Chiefs offense is now deeply into competition with the defense.
“You saw that back and forth battle,” he told the media on Thursday. “Every single practice it seems like we’ll get some good plays here, and then they’ll get some good plays there. So when you have that competition, that’s when you know you have a good team.”
Reid said that new safety Tyrann Mathieu has also made an impression on him.
“He’s kind of fun to be around,” Reid said. “He’s business. He shares that with the guys around him. He has those instincts. You can’t teach that part. He had it in college and he’s had it in the NFL. He works hard every snap. And that’s infectious. That — along with Frank Clark — going 100 miles an hour every snap. That kind of stuff is contagious.”
New linebackers coach Matt House is adding to that — at least according to brand-new linebacker Darron Lee.
“He’s great,” Lee said of House. “Fiery. Energetic. I love the way he coaches. He pushes you every single day — helps you in the meeting room, but definitely pushes you out there on the field.”
“Learning the defense is not something easy that can be learned overnight,” he explained. “So obviously there are going to be learning curves; everybody’s different. But I know that the energy in the defense — from what I’ve seen the last few days — everyone’s excited. But everyone’s patient. That’s what you like to see out of a group of guys.”