During the Kansas City Chiefs’ offseason, much of the focus has been on the defensive line, where star tackle Chris Jones might take more snaps as an edge rusher — something that has been made possible — at least in part — by the acquisition of former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed.
But there are other new (and fairly new) faces on the team’s defense — some of whom have been getting additional snaps during the first few days of training camp.
One of them is second-year linebacker Willie Gay Jr., who spent the offseason rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. Speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Gay had worked hard to come all the way back.
“You know, he stayed up here the whole offseason and worked,” chuckled Reid. ”He’s doing good. I mean, he’s really busted his tail. So it’s refreshing. He’s got such a positive attitude, too.”
Gay and 2021 second-round pick Nick Bolton have both been seeing more time with the defensive starters after linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann have missed practices with minor injuries — and after seeing the two young players in the team’s first padded practice on Tuesday, Reid said he had liked the results so far.
“I like both of them — I mean, they’re making plays,” said the head coach. “I was curious to see how they’d do with the pads on — with the running game coming at them — and I thought they did a nice job with that. Good instincts.”
Those instincts helped both players snag interceptions from quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the last two days — which didn’t bother the offensive-minded Reid one bit.
“Yeah, it’s good to see those linebackers doing that,” he noted. “You’re trying to fit the ball into the tight windows in there — and for those guys to react the way they have, I think that does nothing but make us better.”
Another duo of new faces — cornerbacks Mike Hughes and Deandre Baker — are former first-round draft picks who didn’t work out for their initial teams. Both got more work on Tuesday when Charvarius Ward missed practice time with an eye injury.
“I like both of them,” said Reid. “Baker’s coming off that injury, so it’s good to see him working and challenging himself. That’s not an easy thing to do. I just look at the progress he’s made from the rookie camp to now. Every day, he’s getting just a little bit better. And I know he’s pushing through some fatigue — you get tired — so my hat goes off to him for that.
“And the other kid? Listen, I like what I’ve seen there. He’s competing out here. It’s new for him — but he’s right in there battling. He’s created some great competition.”
And as safety Juan Thornhill missed another day of practice with a groin strain, undrafted rookie Devon Key got in some time, too.
“He’s real smart,” Reid said of the Western Kentucky product. “He’s done a nice job on the back end there — kind of controlling things to make sure everybody’s doing the right things. And then he has enough skill there where he can go make some plays.”
That’s just the kind of skill set the Chiefs like to see on the secondary’s back end. And Reid wanted to remind his listeners that general manager Bret Veach deserved the kudos for acquiring Key after the draft.
“Nice job by Veach,” said Reid. “Make sure he gets the credit on that. He’s done a nice job.”