Kansas City Chiefs rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie will face the biggest test of his short career on Sunday when his team faces the Cincinnati Bengals. Since returning in Week 9 from an early season hamstring injury, McDuffie has played almost every snap — and been trusted with important roles in pass coverage.
The former Washington Husky would not have it any other way.
“I feel like that’s one of the big reasons of why I wanted to come to the NFL,” McDuffie said after Friday’s practice, “to compete with the best. So, any opportunity that I get to go out there and play the top of the top, it’s always an exciting thing for me and I look forward to it every single time.”
The rookie may be competing with the actual best this weekend as Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase appears set to return on Sunday from a hip injury that has kept him out since Week 7. McDuffie knows the second-year receiver will be a tough assignment.
“He’s a ball player,” he said of Chase. “Everybody around the league — especially us — know he’s one of those guys that’s going to go attack the ball and make plays. It’s our responsibility to try to make plays on the ball.”
The Chiefs lost to the Bengals last season both in Week 17 and in the AFC Championship game. Though he was not on last year’s team, McDuffie is now well-versed in the two ill-fated contests — and what Chase can do to a secondary.
“We watched both games constantly over and over,” he said of his unit’s preparation for this week. “We know the things that they did right [and] what we did wrong and how to fix them. I think going out there this weekend, it’s just executing the game plan and making plays on the ball. I think that’s going to be the biggest thing: who’s going to make more plays.”
While Chase is likely a player teams will celebrate containing — rather than hoping to shut down — the 21st overall selection of April’s draft has an idea of how to play him.
“He’s very physical receiver,” McDuffie observed, “which you don’t always get a lot of the time. I think the big thing is getting your hands on him [and] disrupting the timing on the route. He’s a jump ball guy – one of those go to guys. Just making sure every single down that you’re on him, just know that the ball could come your way.”
McDuffie has been able to make his share of plays as a rookie, in spite of his less than ideal height for the position. Having played his college days in the PAC-12 conference, he entered the league knowing the adjustments he must make
“I’ve always been one of the smaller [defensive backs],” he recalled, “so to me it’s just more of a mindset. I feel like I just go out there and play as confident as I can and just trust my techniques that the coaches have taught me and play within the system, know my leverages and I feel like I can do a good job out there against these solid receivers.”