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Dixon’s AP mailbag: cornerback needs, stopping Jackson and player surprises

Let’s see what’s on the minds of Chiefs fans as the team prepares for its biggest test yet

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Dixon’s Arrowhead Pride Mailbag, where I’ll do my best to answer your questions about the Kansas City Chiefs — and anything else that’s on your mind. If you have a question, you can hit my profile page to E-mail me, or ask me on Twitter.

While you’re at it, please follow me on Twitter, too.

Does Brett Veach still think we have the right cornerback room?

— B.R.

Thanks for your question.

For a lot of Chiefs fans, some form of this question is right at the top of their minds right now. The short answer is that the team isn’t completely satisfied at cornerback; reports indicate they were among the teams trying to make a deal for Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. And now we have reports they’re at least interested in acquiring Jalen Ramsey from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Fitzpatrick ended up with the Pittsburgh Steelers — probably because the draft picks they offer are likely to be of greater value than those the Chiefs were offering. That’s one of the downsides of being a team in contention: your draft pick is likely to be worth less than another team’s draft pick. That will continue to be a problem as the Chiefs look for the right deal.

Whatever the cause, it’s too bad the Chiefs couldn’t make the trade. Fitzpatrick would have met the immediate need for a quality defensive back. But perhaps more importantly, he also would have helped to solve a longer-term problem.

Let’s remember that only two corners are now under contract for the Chiefs in 2020: Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton. The 22-year-old Fitzpatrick would have been tied to the Chiefs on a rookie deal at least through 2021 — and as a first-round pick, could have been extended relatively inexpensively through 2022.

But that’s now water under the bridge.

Ramsey, of course, is the player everyone is talking about. But he has only one additional year remaining on his contract — and would cost the Chiefs $13 million in 2020. In addition, the Jaguars have been reported to want two first-round picks for him. That seems like a hefty price to pay for a 25-year-old player who won’t be tied to the team beyond the next season — especially one who is reportedly on the trade market because he doesn’t want to play in a zone scheme. That’s precisely the situation in which he’d find himself in Kansas City.

You’ve already heard me on this: I don’t think the Chiefs’ cornerback needs are nearly as desperate as some believe. Still, if it were up to me, I would have made the deal for Fitzpatrick. But unless he can be acquired for less than the Jaguars are asking — and signed to a new deal the Chiefs can afford — I wouldn’t trade for Ramsey.

That’s not to say the team won’t do it; Brett Veach (shockingly) has his own opinions about what the team should do. But from where I sit, without a new contract as part of the trade, Ramsey would likely only be an expensive short-term fix — and the Chiefs need a long-term solution, too.

More important in the Baltimore Ravens matchup: stopping the run or establishing the run? The Chiefs haven’t been awful at stopping the run but Lamar Jackson is gonna test the Chiefs — and Mark Ingram looks great for them.

— Spiderwomn69

Thanks for asking.

It’s almost always a mistake to draw too many conclusions from a season that’s just two weeks old — but the facts are these: the Ravens have allowed 1.8 rushing yards per attempt. The Chiefs have allowed 6.0. Those numbers are first and 32nd in the league, respectively. The Ravens have rushed for 5.7 yards per attempt, while the Chiefs have managed just 3.0. Those figures are third and 29th.

So yes... how each team runs the ball — and defends the run — will be something to watch. But I think it would be a mistake for the Chiefs to worry too much about establishing the run. That would be playing the Ravens’ game. To win, the Chiefs will have to play their game — forcing the Ravens to play catch up.

That won’t be easy, either. So far, Jackson has been extremely efficient — currently leading the league in passer rating — while continuing to be a running threat. The challenge for the Chiefs will be to keep Jackson from gaining yards on the ground. Thus far, he’s accounted for just over a quarter of the Ravens’ rushing yards.

If the Chiefs can do that, they can make the game an air war between Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. That’s a war Mahomes — and the Chiefs — can win.

Do you think the defense will play better just with time and meshing with each other?

— Donavin

Hey Donavin! Thanks for your question.

Yes... I think so.

Full disclosure: I thought so last season, too — and it didn’t work out so well.

So I could be wrong.

But all other things being equal, it’s axiomatic that a football team will play better as time goes on and they get used to playing with each other. Unfortunately, that’s true for the other teams, too; the cumulative effect might not be as great as we imagine.

But for the Chiefs defense, there’s a substantive difference between this season and last: a simpler scheme. Last season, it appeared there were just too many defensive players who simply never became accustomed to what was expected of them in Bob Sutton’s scheme. The less-complex one-gap scheme that Spagnuolo has installed should help the players focus less on what they’re supposed to do in the scheme (something to which they are probably still adjusting) and more on what’s taking place in front of them — which should make their time together more valuable than we’ve seen in the past.

Biggest surprise thus far from the skill players on offense? Biggest surprise on the defensive side?

— Chris

I know you asked it a while ago, Chris... but I saved your question until we had seen a couple of real games. Thanks!

On offense, I’d have to say Darwin Thompson. Thanks to the signing of LeSean McCoy, we’ve seen little of Thompson since the preseason. But the diminutive sixth-round draft pick has been very impressive. I love the young man’s attitude and work ethic — which will hopefully help him improve in the few areas where his game needs to be better. With both McCoy and Damien Williams hobbled this week, Thompson is likely to see significant snaps against the Ravens on Sunday. I’m counting on him to continue to make the most of his opportunities.

On the defense, I’d go with Damien Wilson. When the Chiefs signed him in May, I didn’t get the sense many people thought he would amount to much. But he’s been a very nice surprise. He’s already on pace to have his best year since joining the league — and he’s got the right attitude to fit right in to Spagnuolo’s scheme. I don’t see Wilson as a defensive star in the making, but he’s more than carrying his weight. I think he’s going to be on this team for a while.

It's Game Time.

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