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Tyrann Mathieu says Juan Thornhill and Armani Watts are growing but have “long way to go”

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The Chiefs safety gave a remarkably honest answer about the young players on Thursday

Two defensive players whose development Kansas City Chiefs fans are excited to see are sophomore safety Armani Watts and rookie safety Juan Thornhill.

These two young defensive backs lined up in the second-team defense during the preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Thornhill grabbed three total tackles — tied for second-most on the team — while Watts gathered two tackles and a pass deflection at the line of scrimmage.

The duo has managed to capture the hearts of Chiefs fans during the offseason and training camp — especially Thornhill, who has picked off Patrick Mahomes more than once during practice. Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu has been impressed, too — and spoke about Thornhill after practice Thursday.

“I think some guys, they’re a natural at what they do,” Mathieu said of the second-round draft pick. “I think he’s one of those kids who you just put them in the middle of the football field, nine times out of ten he’s going to make a play.

“That’s his mindset, he’s very confident, he’s becoming more vocal. I think we’re going to look forward to really seeing him play well for us — not early on — but especially down the stretch.”

Mathieu said something similar about Watts, and how both defensive backs — along with the other young players on the Chiefs defense — still have to develop.

“Especially the last week or so, he’s been coming along really well,” Mathieu said of Watts. “Playing physical, getting his hands on balls. [I] thought he played well in the preseason game last weekend. I know he has a long way to go as well, but I like the growth.

“We’ve got a young group, so it’s going to be important for guys to wake up everyday, motivate themselves, get themselves going and just do the right thing.”

While the defensive pair may still need time to grow, the Chiefs may need them to do it in a hurry. Kansas City desperately needs to improve in the secondary, and both players have shown flashes of being able to help. According to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ young defense is improving every day — and giving him a healthy challenge during practice.

“They have a lot of different stuff,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing to me. It seems like every day they’re giving me a different pressure or a different coverage that they’re playing that they’re going off something they have done days before... kind of made them a well-rehearsed defense.”