Kendall Fuller has a new role entering 2019 — but careful — he wouldn’t exactly say that.
The former Washington Redskins cornerback, whom the Kansas City Chiefs acquired in exchange for quarterback Alex Smith in a blockbuster deal back in January 2018, will play almost exclusively as the nickel cornerback in Steve Spagnuolo’s new look 4-3, he confirmed on Tuesday.
“Kendall’s going to master that nickel spot,” Spagnuolo said. “In emergencies and at times, he may go outside, but I think that’s a natural position for him.”
Fuller took the news in stride upon arriving in St. Joseph for training camp last week.
“I just always have been trying to control what I can control,” Fuller said. “Somebody had an interview just now, they told me that the slot (coverage) is in like 80, 90-percent. Just going out there and just knowing the task at hand playing inside — just the different types of guys you have to guard, the responsibilities that you have in there. Really, I’m just focusing in on that and just locking in on it, then just really trying to learn the ins and outs of the defense.”
Fuller makes a good point, and it is one that has already been discussed by his new defensive coordinator in Spagnuolo. After his hiring in February, Spagnuolo was asked about the Chiefs’ switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3. Spagnuolo sort of scoffed.
He said that in today’s passing game, defenses are in subpackages so often that the base defense matters very little.
“For me, it’s really exactly the same,” Fuller said. “There might be a couple games where you have a little more base than normal, but whether I’m inside, outside, mainly 90 percent of the time I’m in the slot, even if I was going inside outside, so for me, thinking of it, I guess people can make a big deal out of it, but I’m going to be in the slot. Just like last year, I was in the slot, so it’s kind of the same thing for me.”
The last time Fuller officially primarily guarded the slot was back in 2017 during his second season with the Washington Redskins. According to Pro Football Focus, Fuller finished that season as the best slot cornerback in the league.
Kendall Fuller allowed the lowest passer rating out of the slot in the NFL! pic.twitter.com/nkqDvKLsvW— PFF (@PFF) February 8, 2018
Then in 2018, something odd happened—his inside and outside numbers flipped.
CB Kendall Fuller’s slot vs outside numbers in 2018— PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) July 28, 2019
57.9 Coverage Grade
35 1st Downs
7 Forced Incompletions
90.7 Coverage Grade
5 1st Downs
3 Forced Incompletions https://t.co/j54lePEApM
Without closely reviewing Fuller’s film, it would be hard to pinpoint exactly why Fuller saw more success outside than inside in 2018. Still, the PFF numbers are staggering. But it may have had something to do with former defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s 3-4 scheme, which Andy Reid and the team opted to discard this offseason.
Fuller noted Wednesday that he’s had a different defensive coordinator during each of his four seasons in the league.
“For me, I had a different D-coordinator for every year in the league, so it’s kind of the same thing, but at the end of the day, a lot of the time it’s all the same thing,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s different terminology, different things that y’all might do more of, less often. Things like that. But once you get to a certain level, and you start understanding football, a lot of this stuff is kind of just doing the same things—just learning different terminology, learning the little ins and outs that might be in it, but any time you get to learn a new system and be with a different coach, you’re able to learn so much more than you did the year before, so it’s been fun.”
Spagnuolo will require Fuller to cover opposing teams’ biggest threats one-on-one, drop in zone coverage, disguise some calls and even blitz. Fuller believes he is ready for the task because of where he came from.
”When I went to Virginia Tech, our DB coach, he always preached to us on learning how to be a DB, not just learning how to play one position,” Fuller said. “I think that’s one thing that in this system the nickel does. You have to do a lot of different things. They ask you to do a lot of different things.
“Some people would say that you’re just playing one position, but the way you’re playing it is almost as if you’re playing corner, nickel, safety and all of that. It’s been fun.”
- It was a bit cooler for Chiefs practice on Wednesday, with the temperature in the mid-60s, before the workout was moved inside due to rain.
- Wednesday’s practice was of the 10-10-10 variety. Andy Reid on 10-10-10 practices: “It was a 10-10-10 practice – a lighter day – but a big mental day, as far as a big install last night that they had to indulge there and then come out here and function. With 10-10-10’s, we service each other. Offense services defense, defense services offense. You get into specific things that you want to work on that particular day. That’s what today was.”
- Rookie cornerback Dakari Monroe intercepted a pass from Patrick Mahomes on an obvious miscue during a team period. After running back Darwin Thompson had a good day on Tuesday, he dropped an easy pass outside before the practice moved indoors.
- Inside, Carlos Hyde, Darrel Williams and Tremon Smith earned running back reps with the first team. Smith already intrigues me on offense. He shows good burst, and I think he has a better chance to make the club on offense. I thought this was Williams’ best day of work that I’ve seen so far.
- Cornerback Bashaud Breeland was back with the first team on the outside across from Charvarius Ward. I imagine the Chiefs see Breeland and Ward as starters with D’Montre Wade making his case. Breeland: “We all are just going out there and competing and the best man wins the job. As for everybody, not just speaking for myself, we want the best guys to help this team win and to get us where we need to be.”
- Two bubble players had strong days: TE Nick Keizer and WR Jody Fortson. I don’t think either makes the club — but i could see one finding his way to the Chiefs’ practice squad.
- Kicker Harrison Butker drilled one of two attempts from 58 yards. Since the kick was inside, that might be his maximum range with no elements involved. Shortly after the successful kick, left tackle Eric Fisher turned to the media members and whispered, “Get out your phones” and motioned with his hands as if he was texting. We wish we could have, Eric, but indoors, there is no tweeting until after practice.
As expected, wide receiver Tyreek Hill was held out of Wednesday’s workout due to his “quad contusion.” Check out our full injury report here.
Tweets of note
Tyreek Hill just made his way to the practice field. No work for him today pic.twitter.com/EkPmJNIAXy— Adam Teicher (@adamteicher) July 31, 2019
Frank Clark was late to the Chiefs’ practice this morning, which started at 9:15. Clark spent time with his family in St. Joseph before realizing he was late. He was pulled over by local authorities just outside of Missouri Western State’s campus for speeding, per the Chiefs.— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) July 31, 2019
A bonus nugget:— Aaron Borgmann (@RehabAllStar) July 31, 2019
Now that #Chiefs have moved indoors for the day, it is easy for me to say that @MissouriWestern has one of the finest indoor football facilities you will ever see, college or professional
Chiefs have wrapped up indoor practice. Couple quick observations:— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2019
- Tremon Smith was running with the second team offense
- Harrison Butker hit a 58 yd FG off the right hash
- Andy Reid really got creative during the 1s reps in 11-on-11. We’ll be seeing those plays again.
Week one down. Top of the production chart.— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) July 31, 2019
Quote of the day
Cornerback Running back Tremon Smith on catching passes from Patrick Mahomes: “I’m excited. You got to be excited catching a ball from the MVP, the No. 1 player of the top 100 eventually, so it’s just going to be way too much excitement to just finally be able to score. I haven’t scored since senior year in college.”
Watch the last time Smith scored a touchdown from two camera angles (1:04-mark) or by clicking here. Central Arkansas defeated Sam Houston State, 41-30, on September 30, 2017.
The Chiefs will have Thursday off, then resume practice on Friday morning at 8:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. Friday is Chiefs Alumni Day at camp, and the entire team will sign autographs for fans after the workout.