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Film review: Young Chiefs cornerbacks display physicality in Arizona

Top to bottom, smarts and toughness are common traits among Kansas City cornerbacks.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Another football season is nearly upon us — and in Chiefs Kingdom, that means another preseason where fans question the talent among Kansas City Chiefs cornerbacks. Since Marcus Peters was traded in 2018, many fans have felt that general manager Brett Veach has not properly prioritized investing in the position.

Yet under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, cornerbacks coach Sam Madison and safeties coach Dave Merritt, Veach’s roster construction strategy has paid off quite nicely. Clearly, the primary decision-makers have believed they can invest few resources into the position and still trust the coaching staff to get great returns. So far this preseason, we’re seeing much of the same.

Let’s look at some specific themes we saw on film in the second preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night.

Tackling

The biggest of these themes was the cornerbacks’ willingness — and ability — to tackle in the open field. While it isn’t their primary responsibility, it shouldn’t be undersold, either. Cornerbacks need to be capable tacklers — especially in a conference like the AFC, which is full of physical teams that run the ball.

Tackling like this could mean one less yard or one less first down — or even a few fewer points — on any defensive drive.

Blitzing

One of the greatest benefits in having second-year player L’Jarius Sneed remain as the team’s slot cornerback is that he can pick right up where he left off as a blitzer in 2020.

But it hasn’t just been Sneed making these plays in the preseason. Undrafted free agent rookie Dicaprio Bootle has also gotten in on the action.

Press technique

In man coverage, Chiefs cornerbacks are frequently asked to press tight against receivers at the line of scrimmage — and it is easy to see why so many of these players are getting better and better at it. In particular, patient eyes and feet have allowed Deandre Baker to maintain great positioning on the primary receivers he’s pressed. Wideouts who possess elite long speed could present some issues against Baker — but otherwise, he is really going to excel in press coverage.

On the back end of plays, cornerback Mike Hughes had some impressive ball skill reps, where he significantly helped to cause incompletions that ended Arizona drives. Quality work with his eyes (and feet) put him in position to make these plays at the catch point.

Areas for improvement

While there weren’t a whole lot of negative plays among Kansas City’s cornerbacks on Friday, there is always some room for growth.

No recurring negative trends were seen throughout the group — which is certainly a good thing. But no matter how well a defense executes, offenses have the advantage; through the course of a game, they’re going to get a few solid plays.

The bottom line

As the Chiefs move to Arrowhead Stadium for their last preseason against the Minnesota Vikings, we will look to see if the secondary can build on these two strong performances against the Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers.

While these games do not count toward the standings, technique, awareness, and the ability to play in-sync as a collective unit can certainly transfer to meaningful games. Which Kansas City cornerbacks will step up (or back) in the final exhibition game?

Cornerbacks play one of the NFL’s most challenging positions — one in which performances can be very volatile. But for right now, the arrow is pointing up for the Chiefs’ corners. Let’s hope we see that continue.