The emergence of third-year linebacker Ben Niemann as a potential 2020 starter has been an underlying story of Kansas City Chiefs training camp, which finished up with an open practice on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Niemann was spotted on the in-house YouTube broadcast as the team’s first-team WILL linebacker. The Chiefs coaching staff has spoken highly of Niemann all month, saying that the 25-year-old looks stronger and has grown more confident.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo continued the praise for Niemann on Monday.
“If you had to say one thing that makes him a candidate, it would be from the chin to the hairline—a very intelligent football player,” noted Spagnuolo. “We all know his dad’s a football coach and played at Iowa and all that, but I’ve got a great deal of respect for Ben. He’s a true pro. He knows everything we put in. He’s a great communicator, he’s become a great communicator. I’ve got great confidence in him and Hitch (Anthony Hitchens) when we put them in front of the huddle and when they break the huddle and have to make adjustments.”
Chiefs linebackers coach Matt House complimented Niemann for his position flexibility just last week.
“I would tell you this, I think Ben moves around a lot better than people give him credit for,” added Spagnuolo of Niemann, who stands at 6 feet 2. “He’s tall and all that, but I still think he’s a really good knee-bender, that’s why we put him out in pass coverage, and I’m looking forward to watching Ben play some football this fall.”
Niemann was on the field for 401 defensive snaps (36 percent) in 2019, but it seems as though that number stands to increase — beginning in the season opener against the Houston Texans a week from Thursday. It remains to be seen how that might impact his special teams snaps. He finished fourth on the team with 281 special teams snaps last season.