Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo began his talk with reporters on Wednesday by saying that it seemed like “forever” since he’d last spoken to them. But a lot has happened since then — including last month’s selection of Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay, Jr. with the 63rd pick of the NFL Draft.
“We’ll probably begin with Willie at one of the outside positions,” Spagnuolo said of the new linebacker. “It might — we think, without knowing right away, we’re hopeful — that he would replace what Reggie Ragland did for us last year. I preface that by saying that we don’t know that until we get him.”
I believe that Gay has the potential to be a day-one starting WILL linebacker for this defense. His athletic traits would be a major upgrade if he has the playbook down. However, if Spagnuolo and House want to get him some on-field development, I could see the Chiefs utilizing him at SAM linebacker early on. That would move Wilson back to WILL linebacker, where he played after Lee’s demotion. It could gain Gay the necessary reps to learn the system and speed of the game at the NFL level while still keeping the athleticism on the field.
The Chiefs’ defensive coordinator continued.
“We’re a long way away from [knowing]. You guys get it: they come from college into the pros and getting them up to speed takes a little while. And all these young guys lose out on having these foundation of reps — whether it’s mental or walkthroughs.”
Spagnuolo said that the current conditions remind him of another season he experienced.
“It feels like 2011 when we had the lockout when I was in St. Louis and we didn’t have all of that. We’re way ahead of that because we have these Zoom meetings. But I think Willie Gay will begin there. Whatever else we can do with him, we’ll build on that.
“Brett Veach and his staff did a terrific job identifying him,” said the defensive coordinator. “We’re glad we have him. We’re excited for what we think he can do. But until we get him out there, we won’t really know. I mean, things jump off the chart with regards to speed. He’s a violent hitter — which we love. Hopefully all of those things will translate to this league.”