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Five training camp questions about the Chiefs defense

NFL: AFC Championship Game-New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Players begin reporting to Kansas City Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph, Missouri next week — rookies and quarterbacks on Tuesday, and the rest of the team on Wednesday.

On Thursday, we brought you five questions about the Chiefs offense from this week’s training camp preview episode of the AP Laboratory podcast. Now we turn to the defensive side of the ball: five questions we have about the Chiefs defense before practices get underway.

What’s the energy the new defensive staff will bring?

There has been a massive overhaul of the defensive coaching staff. Only Britt Reid remains from 2018. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has put together a group of energetic and respected coaches to help create a new culture on defense. Notable to this group is defensive line coach Brendan Daly — formerly of the New England Patriots.

Visit training camp and you’ll get front row access to the establishment of a new mentality on defense.

What do the new on-field leaders bring to the table?

This season will largely depend on the galvanization and performance of the defensive unit. Safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Frank Clark are expected to be an on-field extension of the new leadership.

Clark brings attitude and energy the defense did not possess in their run to the AFC Championship Game. He is competitive at all times and isn’t scared to bring intensity to a practice. The offensive line will get better going up against Clark — and things just might get chippy.

Mathieu was signed to set the standard for the secondary; he’ll likely be the vocal leader for the group. Expect to see him holding the defense accountable at camp.

When does Chris Jones report?

It is more of a secondary storyline of the offseason, but the Jones situation is one to monitor. After holding out on mini-camp, when does he show up? What does he look like when he arrives? His progress updates on social media look promising, but it’s still a question.

I would expect Jones to be there the first week, as the fines that he’ll rack up by continuing to miss practice could very easily wipe out most of his $1.2 million base salary for this season.

Whenever he arrives, Jones will be stepping into a new culture wholly different than the one he left in January. The staff has turned over and the faces aren’t all familiar. I’m most curious to see how Jones responds to his new positional coach Brendan Daly. I’m also looking forward to see how the relationship between Jones and Clark develops.

Do the linebackers rebound?

If you noticed a lack of plays in the linebacker group last season, you’re not alone. Possibly the most under-performing positional group from last season has new leadership in former Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House. The new scheme — with more single-gap assignments and an emphasis on playing fast — is likely to help carry-overs Anthony Hitchens, Reggie Ragland and Dorian O’Daniel see improvement in their performance.

If there’s a change in this group, you should notice it quickly.

Can the cornerbacks give fans confidence?

The Chiefs invested only minimally in improving the cornerback position this season. The first draft selection at the position didn’t happen until Rashad Fenton was selected in the sixth round. In free agency, the Chiefs acquired Bashaud Breeland along with AAF legend (and former Chief) Keith Reaser. Breeland’s $2 million salary is the largest investment the Chiefs made in the secondary.

These players — along with Charvarius Ward and Kendall Fuller — make up the group that probably has the biggest questions surrounding it. The goals for this team will likely hinge on whether they can take another step in their performance. Ward and Fuller specifically will need to improve on their first season in Kansas City. Seeing improvement from the cornerbacks in camp could instill confidence in the defensive outlook of this team as a whole.

AP Laboratory

We went in-depth on both sides of the ball in this week’s episode of the AP Laboratory.

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