The Kansas City Chiefs' young secondary group continues to impress safeties coach Donald D'Alesio. The second-year coach thinks that the season has been "going well" for his youthful crew — and that their willingness to improve sets them apart on defense.
"They're eager to learn, they want to work hard, [and] they're ultra competitors," D'Alesio praised. "It's easy when you have those traits… they want to do the right thing every time they're out there. It's an easy group for us to coach, and it's a lot of fun at the same time."
Rookie safety Bryan Cook has particularly caught the attention of the coaching staff with his intelligence and coachability.
"Bryan does an outstanding job; he is super smart," admired D'Alesio. "He's a guy that he wants to be perfect; he always wants to be coached (and) wants to do the right thing."
D'Alesio says Cook is an avid note-taker in team meetings, and he is always willing to learn and seize the moment when his name is called.
"When he had his opportunity when (safety) Juan [Thornhill] was down that one game [against the Los Angeles Rams], he went in, and he played extremely well for us."
The rookie had two tackles and a sack in the game.
"We're happy with the progress that Bryan's making."
As another young but experienced safety, Thornhill enters his third NFL season with the Chiefs as a more reliable and consistent figure in the backfield. D'Alesio says that Thornhill is "doing a good job," even as the interceptions don't seem to come his way as often as he would like.
"Sometimes the ball just doesn't find those guys in the backend," explained D'Alesio. "Which could be a good thing, we've got them covered, (and) the quarterback doesn't want to throw the ball there."
D'Alesio emphasizes the need to be ready when the opportunity for a turnover does present itself.
"We just keep harping on them, whether it's in practice [or] in the game, when the ball's thrown your way, when you have that opportunity, go take advantage of it," reiterated the safeties coach. "We try to go get that ball first."
Confidence is key with secondary positions, and with so much youth within the Chiefs' backfield, finding confidence can change the game's outcome.
"This is the National Football League; when the time comes to make your play, go make it," D'Alesio emphasized. "We're always reinforcing (that on) the next play, you gotta have confidence at that position, that's kind of where it all starts with those guys."
The adage, "Everyone here is on scholarship," rings true as the Chiefs face two well-below-.500 teams in back-to-back weeks, the Houston Texans are not to be overlooked, and D'Alesio prepares his guys for the challenge ahead.
"We saw what [the Texans] did against [the Dallas Cowboys] last week — who [is] a good football team [that] plays good defense," credits D'Alesio.
"Our guys will be ready to play; there's a lot at stake for us… Every opportunity that we get to be out on the field, those guys want to take advantage of it."