Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo told a story Thursday about how he recently looked at a depth chart from late July or early August, when the team was set to begin training camp.
“For a little bit there, I forgot about—do you guys remember Keith Reaser that we lost?” Spagnuolo asked the media. “Boom, you just move on and you go to the next guy. Hopefully, he’s getting healthy, but we’d like to have as many corners as we can.”
Headed into Jacksonville on Sunday, the Chiefs have four. A former 2012 first-rounder in Morris Claiborne is a member of the team but won’t be available until Week 5 due to a suspension. Tremon Smith is listed as a cornerback, but last week, he was a wide receiver.
So the Chiefs are down to Charvarius Ward and Bashaud Breeland on the outside with Kendall Fuller guarding the slot. Almost comically, rookie Rashad Fenton is listed on the team’s unofficial depth chart as the backup for every position—even though the team made it seem like he would only play behind Fuller during camp.
“I think what Andy (Reid) and (general manager) Brett (Veach) will tell you is we try to keep the best 53 and those guys grind away at finding that, and it happened to end up being four. It feels light, and yet, it’s happened before. Then by the time you get to 46 (players), it’s four, and you got to get somebody to cross-train. But we’ll work our way through it.”
One solution is versatile safeties, and the Chiefs brought in two of them this offseason—one during free agency with Tyrann Mathieu and one in the second round of the draft in Virginia product Juan Thornhill.
“I like to think I’m a cornerback, still,” Mathieu said Wednesday. “I think Juan is obviously athletic enough. He’s longer, got nice speed and I think myself, as well. I think we could go out there in a critical situation.”
Mathieu said the experience he has gained from six years in the league give him the self-assurance he could fill that void if need be.
“I played in different systems,” Mathieu said. “I’ve played outside, I’ve played inside. I’ve played every position in the secondary, and I’ve seen a lot of football, so I understand what’s going on for the most part, so I don’t think that adjustment will be too hard.”
Talking with the media at the roster deadline last week, Veach did not seem overly concerned about the lack of numbers.
“Thornhill can play some corner,” he said—referencing Thornhill having played both safety and cornerback at Virginia. “We will certainly look into adding some corner depth, but one of the things that we talked about here was not overlooking the depth and the versatility we have at safety. Guys like the Badger could play nickel if he had to. Thornhill can go out and get reps at corner. (Jordan) Lucas has played some corner in the past.”
While the position is certainly a deficiency, the Chiefs sound confident in their plan. After Jacksonville, Kansas City faces Oakland, Baltimore and Detroit before Claiborne comes back into the fold.
Through the early part of the season, health at cornerback will be of the utmost importance.
Worth noting from Thursday
- Special teams coordinator Dave Toub confirmed that Tyreek Hill (punt return) and Tremon Smith (kick return) are the team’s top returners for Week 1 headed into Jacksonville. He noted that Mecole Hardman could also “be back there.”
- Toub was asked what the Chiefs will lack by not having De’Anthony Thomas available (Thomas is suspended for Week 1): ”We have Tremon. Tremon Smith does a lot of the same positions that he plays. There is not a lot of drop off. He had an excellent game in that last preseason game. He really earned his spot, as far as special teams go. He had tackles. He had great returns. He was doing it all. He is a guy that would fill that spot. (Byron) Pringle is another one that fills those spots. When De’Anthony comes back, obviously, we’ll have to make a decision regarding what we are going to do. That’s for those guys upstairs to make that decision.” | Toub’s words makes me think that Smith is in trouble once Thomas returns from suspension next week.
- We went out to Chiefs practice for 20 minutes, and it was steamy. According to my Weather Channel app, Kansas City had Jacksonville-like conditions today. KC: 92 degrees | feels like 100 | 49% humidity; JAX: 91 degrees | feels like 100 | 48% humidity
- One of offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s comments made me think the Chiefs might rotate players in more than usual Sunday due to the heat.
- Running back Damien Williams held a quick media scrum after the locker room closed and he seemed to take the LeSean McCoy news in stride: “I feel like we’re all competitive guys and just with McCoy being here already we’re able to talk a little smack a little bit, he’s a competitive person as well. I feel like we’re all competing to go out there and be the best back and put pressure on each other then who knows what we can do.”
- Bieniemy declined to really say anything of note when it came to McCoy’s progress in picking up the playbook. Bieniemy: “You know what, after one day it’s tough to tell. I don’t want to put that pressure on him. At the end of the day I just want to make sure he is good with whatever we decide to do when he’s out there, and when he’s out there not thinking but just reacting and playing.”