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Steve Spagnuolo values Jaylen Watson’s confidence — but sees big challenge ahead

Kansas City’s defensive coordinator loves his young corner — and knows he’ll have a tough job against the Raiders.

Green Bay Packers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jason Hanna/Getty Images

While the Kansas City Chiefs dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for in a 41-31 victory on Sunday, a slight concern has been raised over the defense’s second-half performance. After the Chiefs extended their lead to 21 points in the third quarter, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns to narrow the final score.

Speaking before practice on Friday, Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo confirmed that he was content to let Brady move the ball — provided that the clock was also moving.

“When you are able to get up by three scores,” he explained, “the one thing you don’t want to do is give them a quick score. We try to function that way by not giving a quick score — [and] mix it up enough. It can get bleedy. And Tom was smart enough that he was being patient; he was taking checkdowns. That was OK with us. And of course, you’re still looking at the clock and seeing what’s going on.”

As Brady attempted the comeback, he frequently targeted Chiefs’ rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson — the 243rd overall selection in April’s draft. Wide receiver Mike Evans — a four-time Pro Bowl selection with over 1,000 receiving yards in all of his eight seasons — beat Waton’s tight coverage on one of his two touchdowns.

Still, Spagnuolo remains pleased with what he is seeing from Watson — and is happy that the team is winning while the rookie is learning.

Kansas City Chiefs v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

“Jaylen, he continues to get better,” the coach observed. “There’s tweaks and things in there. There were a couple of rookie mistakes there. We knew there [were] going to be some growing pains with some of these young guys; we’ve got a number of young guys out there. But if we can keep finding ways to win games while they are growing, I think that’s going to help us down the road.

“Jaylen’s gotten more confident — and [more] confident each week. The minute he walks into the meeting room, he looks different every day. That’s a good thing for a corner. Confidence is huge.”

Spagnuolo said he advises the young players to remain true to their games — and to the coaching they receive from defensive backs coach Dave Merritt and safeties coach Donald D’Alesio.

“I don’t want those guys to change at all,” he explained. “I want them to be aggressive — the way Dave and Donald coach it. Don’t change because one time they complete one. You can’t do that in this business. You’ve just got to go on to the next play — and hopefully, it’s not detrimental and leads to points.

“I think Jaylen’s done a good job of that. I don’t see him putting his head down. I still see him fighting in there.”

Although the Las Vegas Raiders will bring a disappointing 1-3 record to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium for Monday Night Football, Spagnuolo knows how dangerous their offense can be. A week after facing Evans — clearly one of the league’s best receivers — the young secondary will have to deal with an even better receiver: the Raiders’ Davante Adams.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

While the threat of the Raiders' offense has not yet been as advertised, Spagnuolo recognizes the threat presented by pairing Adams with Las Vegas tight end Darren Waller and running back Josh Jacobs. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow also appears set to clear concussion protocol and suit up on Monday.

“Another big guy that can run,” Spagnuolo said of Adams, “[with a] great catch radius — all those things that you talk about with great receivers. I’ve got a lot of respect for Derek Carr — I think he knows where to go with the ball. You watch the tape of teams they’ve played, you can see where 17 [Adams] is getting doubled. And Derek’s smart enough to go someplace else — and he’s got some other weapons.

“He’s getting another one back this week with 13, with Renfrow. I think he’ll spread it around as the season goes on for them — [but] hopefully, not this week. Things will open up for them because they’ve got a great wideout out there you’ve got to worry about. They’ve got a great tight end. Now you’ve got a slot receiver — and the running back had a pretty good game last week, too.

“Now you know why I don’t sleep real well when we play teams like this. They’ve got an explosive offense — they’ve got a lot of weapons.”

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