The Kansas City Chiefs have made one thing abundantly clear this offseason: they intend to #RunItBack in 2020.
They kept their coaching staff intact, signed the majority of their departing free agents from 2019 and extended a few key contributors for the long haul. In an odd offseason, the Chiefs clearly prioritized keeping everything in-house for the 2020 season.
With that said, they did lose one of their key contributors in the stretch run in cornerback/safety Kendall Fuller. Fuller was an impact player after Juan Thornhill’s season-ending injury in Week 17, stepping in as a sub-package safety for the playoffs — and made the game-sealing interception in the Super Bowl.
Fuller wasn’t just a backup safety for the Chiefs last year, as he held the slot cornerback role prior to a Week 6 injury. Upon returning to the lineup in Week 13, Fuller began to assume the a role in the Chiefs dime defense, both playing in the slot and rotating deep to safety. That was not a small role, as the Chiefs found themselves in their dime package for nearly 29% of the season.
While the assumption was that Rashad Fenton may step into that role in 2020, the coaching staff has indicated that new addition Antonio Hamilton might be the guy to take over for Fuller to start the season.
Antonio Hamilton has seen a lot of praise late this offseason for this ability to play multiple spots - a la Kendall Fuller in 2019 - and I'd expect a similar usage.— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) September 7, 2020
Hamilton has the speed to drop deep in the dime, but like Fuller, finds success in the MOF against slot/TE types. pic.twitter.com/FuodDR778r
Hamilton is uniquely equipped for this role in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. The Chiefs ask their slot defenders to handle multiple different kinds of receivers, as they don’t typically follow with their cornerbacks. That means the slot defender can see any type of matchup — like Tyrann Mathieu’s touchdown-saving pass breakup against Courtland Sutton.
Hamilton has the physical attributes to handle any type of player that he would see in the slot. He has the speed, burst, and fluidity to mirror routes from quicker slot receivers, yet possesses the size and length to take away big slot receivers and tight ends. He also has the range to drop into a deep half zone from the slot — a coverage Spagnuolo found lots of success with in 2019.
Make no mistake, Hamilton will be a key special teams contributor — his expected primary role in 2020. He is a fantastic gunner and excellent in kick coverage, claiming a preferred role for Dave Toub despite not having any live game reps to evaluate.
While Hamilton needs some help with his processing and route feel, his success this year will not be for lack of physical attributes. If Sam Madison and Dave Merritt can work the kind of magic that they did with Fuller in that role, the Chiefs could see a massive contributor in one of the few spots they lost this offseason. If Hamilton gets significant snaps in the dime defense this season, it would be yet another feather in Brett Veach’s cap for the 2020 offseason.