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The Raiders’ Darren Waller says replacing Tyrann Mathieu will be hard for the Chiefs

The Las Vegas tight end spoke about the former Kansas City safety during a podcast appearance.

Kansas City Chiefs v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There’s been little doubt that whatever his playing ability may have been, former Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu was one of the emotional leaders of the team’s defense. And according to the Las Vegas Raiders' star tight end Darren Waller, Kansas City will find it hard to replace him in that role.

“I feel like it’s just the dog nature,” Waller said during a recent episode of Chris Long’s “Green Light” podcast, per NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk. “That dude is like a lion out there, you know? There’s not many people who can replicate that level of raising everybody’s intensity level and energy level and just a collective confidence. So I wonder who’s going to be that for them now, because there’s few people — if any — who can do it the way that he does. And I feel like he gave them identity.

“Especially when, I feel like they struggled during the season, but then when it came time during the playoffs, they were just able to flip a switch almost. And I knew who had to have been leading them on the front lines of that mindset and that mental shift. So, we’ll see how that works for them.”

Former Houston Texans safety Justin Reid — who played alongside Mathieu during his 2018 rookie season — is widely believed to be the player the Chiefs have tapped to fill that role. Reid has often spoken about his ability (and willingness) to be a defensive leader, which he says he modeled after Mathieu’s example. He’s also said that this is what the team expects from him.

“I think that’s the reason they brought me there: to command the back end,” Reid recently told reporters during a visit to a Houston elementary school. “Not just be a leader by speaking, but to be a leader by example and to help those young guys on the roster develop in the players they’re capable of being.”

He spoke on the subject again during an appearance on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” on Wednesday.

“A lot of guys throw around the term ‘being a leader.’ [But] being a leader isn’t just about going and saying the right things. It’s about doing the right things. It’s about being a force multiplier — and when you’re on the field, everyone picks up their game a little bit more.”

But immediately after the Chiefs signed him to a three-year, $31.5 million contract in March, Reid acknowledged that leadership is something that isn’t just assigned to you.

“That’s not something that’s just given or appointed to someone,” he told reporters during his first Kansas City press appearance. “That’s something that you earn in the locker room with the guys themselves. So that’s why it’s a big point to me: I want to shake every man’s hand in that locker room, look them in the eye, and know them by their name. In order to receive respect, you first have to give respect.

“I’m big on that. I want to earn these guys’ respect. I want to prove to them that I can be the leader. But that’s not something that’s just given to me; I have to earn that.”

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