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Chiefs’ rookie cornerbacks have earned the trust of the team’s coaching staff

The young Chiefs defensive backs will face their biggest test yet with the upcoming matchup against the Bills.

NFL: AUG 25 Preseason - Packers at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs’ Week 6 matchup against the Buffalo Bills is expected to be a high-scoring affair between two of the league’s premier offenses. With superstar playmakers headlining both teams, defense will be at a premium – meaning that one critical defensive stop may be all it takes to determine the winner of this game.

Every level of the Chiefs’ defense will be tested in this matchup; however, an added emphasis will be placed on the team’s young cornerback group who will be tasked with slowing down a Bills’ offense that passed for over 400 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5.

Making things more difficult is the fact that starting cornerback Rashad Fenton has been ruled out for the game due to a hamstring injury. Rookie first-rounder Trent McDuffie returned to practice this week, but it doesn’t sound like he will play against the Bills, either. It’s likely McDuffie could be activated for next week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Defensive backs coach Dave Merritt has said McDuffie has been active in the meeting rooms – something that should make the process of getting back onto the field a lot smoother.

“I’m calling on him asking him questions because everyone in the room, I tell them, ‘You all are starters, everyone is a starter so don’t sit here and think that your number cannot be called.’” Merritt explained. “And McDuffie from the day one of his injuries he has been in the meeting rooms, and he’s been taking notes and he’s been able to answer the questions for the game plan.”

McDuffie will be a nice boost for the Chiefs even though the team’s cornerbacks have performed admirably with several young players stepping up during his absence. Fellow rookies Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams have earned praise from the coaching staff – proving themselves worthy of being a part of the cornerback rotation in the eyes of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

“(Watson) has certainly done enough to be in there somewhere,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s proven that he deserves to be out there. We’ll see how that unwinds, but it’s nice — sometimes it is a silver lining to the injury. We had to try — and we didn’t want that — but we found out a little bit about Jaylen and that’s a good thing.”

As for Williams, Merritt spoke glowingly of the fourth-round rookie as he showed poise during a high-pressure situation in last week’s game.

“One of the reasons why we drafted the [6-foot-3] corner with the long arms is to be able to play that type of coverage when it’s a critical situation,” Merritt said. “For the young man to go out there and execute the press technique the way he did it, it was really nice to see so he’s up again this week so we’ll see if he can stack it.”

The team was so impressed by Williams’ play that they ended up showing it to the rest of the team as an example of how to play man-to-man defense — a huge confidence boost to the rookie as he prepares for a challenging test against an elite Bills’ wide receiving corps.

“The other day we were actually showing our two minutes and showing plays and right before we started talking about the two minute actually Don D’Alesio put Josh Williams’ plays up on the board,” Merritt told reporters. “He just basically showed everyone, ‘Hey, this is what you want to do if we call man-to-man,’ and that was a big moment for that young man in front of the defensive group. Of course, he started grinning from ear to ear. It builds confidence for sure, especially against a player like [Raiders wide receiver Davante] Adams.”

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