As training camp progresses over the next few weeks, the AP Nerd Squad continues to break down the Chiefs roster position by position. We’re working from the top of the depth chart to the bottom, briefing you on how we think each position group will play out.
The cornerback group will be a rather young one in Week 1.
Here’s what you need to know about the Chiefs’ cornerbacks:
Charvarius Ward has come a long way in a short amount of time, and he’ll be the clear cut leader of the room in Week 1.
Ward is usually incredibly in RZ defense. Limited space means less ground to cover underneath/horizontally which limits the stiffer transitions.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 5, 2019
When using his size near the LoS he has his best reps and looks most comfortable attached to WR's rather than playing off cov pic.twitter.com/gt23E2vsZg
Ward has been thrust into a leadership role for the cornerback group with the absence of Bashaud Breeland due to suspension. Your best ability is availability, and Breeland is going to miss time for off-field mistakes. Had that not been the case, I’d likely be discussing the man who had a very good postseason and capped it off with an interception in the Super Bowl.
Ward is still an ascending player who started every game for the Chiefs last season in his first full year. He found success last year in Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme — primarily pressing and attached at the line of scrimmage to a receiver. Still young and relatively inexperienced, Ward should continue to grow and develop through his first contract. As the roster sits, he will be the most experienced corner entering Week 1 for the Chiefs.
New kid on the block
The Chiefs spent a fourth-round pick on L’Jarius Sneed — a safety in 2019 at Louisiana Tech who Spagnuolo will return to cornerback — his original position.
L'Jarius Sneed vs top competition (LSU)— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) April 30, 2020
Sneed does a good job staying patient but also keeping his feet underneath him. Allows him to gather his momentum, flip his hips, and explode w/ breaks. Pairing that w/ his length and athleticism make him incredibly versatile. pic.twitter.com/XtAZZOhEBa
Sneed’s cornerback tape is better than his work as a safety. When the Bulldogs asked him to switch to get more players on the field, he obliged for the benefit of the team. He profiles exceptionally well for this defensive scheme. Sneed has the length, size, athleticism and physicality that Spagnuolo covets. He can press successfully at the line of scrimmage and has more than enough long speed to carry vertically with receivers.
What’s more — he’s a willing tackler who will play well on special teams. We could get a glimpse of him early in the year given Breeland’s absence.
Rashad Fenton might be the frontrunner to start opposite Ward in Week 1.
Rashad Fenton saw most of his reps in the slot last year but may have looked the best on the outside when filling in for Breeland in spurts.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) June 22, 2020
Stays patient, plays his leverage, and allows the WR to show their hand firss. Good job hooking w/o turning the WR on the undercut pic.twitter.com/BfThSD5gq3
Fenton saw some playing time late in the year — including the Super Bowl. His best work has been when he’s been given the opportunity to play outside. There isn’t a ton of experience in this group, but Fenton got the majority of his in the most important games of the season at the end of the year.
If he can continue to build off of the end of last year he could use the opportunity early in 2020 and not look back.
It’ll be a battle between Fenton, Sneed and free agent signing Antonio Hamilton starting opposite Ward in Week 1. I want to throw rookie seventh-round pick BoPete Keyes into the mix. but he’s currently on the non-football injury list and it’s unknown what his status will be for the season.
Fenton has a leg up on the other two with a year in the scheme and some promising moments at the end of the year. Hamilton has the most years in the league but has primarily been a special teams ace — his defensive snaps have been limited to this point. Sneed is the most talented of the three but has the steepest learning curve. I’d prefer to see him thrown into the fire early in some capacity on defense to see what the Chiefs have in their fourth-rounder.
There is still time for the Chiefs to add a veteran into the mix if they don’t like what they’re seeing with their young options during training camp.
Who will start opposite Charvarius Ward at cornerback in Week 1?
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