During the Kansas City Chiefs‘ 2022 training camp, the focus has been on the rookies — particularly in the defensive backfield. They’ve been labeled as ‘the Fab Five’ and have made early impressions on everyone from reporters to coaches to teammates.
Third-year cornerback L’Jarius Sneed is one of those teammates. It wasn’t that long ago that he was an impressive rookie, earning immediate playing time as a fourth-round pick — which he turned into a starting spot and a role as one of the defense’s best playmakers.
Now he’s helping the rookies try to do the same thing. He talked about that process with the media on Wednesday, following the teams’ next-to-last training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.
“This is Year 3, and I feel like an old guy,” Sneed told reporters. “With these young guys coming in? I feel like I’m the veteran of the crew.”
To say the least, Sneed’s initial impressions of the rookies — particularly first-round cornerback Trent McDuffie — have been positive
“I see that they’re hungry; they want to be successful,” said Sneed. “I call Trent ‘Steph Curry.’ He a swift little guy; he can do it all — from the inside to the outside. I see all of them have potential, though.
“I [could] tell from OTAs they were ready to go from when they first came in. I [could] tell that they were learning a lot, taking everything in and soaking it in.”
The first-year player who can best relate to Sneed’s career path is likely to be this year’s fourth-round selection: cornerback Joshua Williams, who played at Division-II Fayetteville State — leaving what looked like a long learning curve for him to experience.
Just the same, he has surprised observers with his refined techniques — especially in press-man coverage. Even Sneed admitted he’s been trying to learn from the rookie.
“I try to steal some things from him,” he said. “He’s really good with his hands. He’s very patient at the line. I can learn from him as a rookie — because I’m still learning myself.”
Williams also spoke to the media after Wednesday’s practice.
“First off, that’s a blessing for [L’Jarius] to say that,” said Williams of Sneed’s remarks. “I look up to [L’Jarius]. That’s a vet I really do try to model myself after and take little things after... Almost any time I’m coming off the field, I’m asking him, ‘How I can do this?’ or ‘What would [you] do right here?’
“He’ll give it to you. He’s not one of those people in his own world; he’ll come and offer some of that wisdom. Being humble — knowing how to speak to the rookies — it’s a plus. I love him.”
With Sneed’s help, Williams is working on being able to contribute right away. One of the most important things for him to get down is defensive coordinator Steve Spganuolo’s playbook, which looks a little different than the one he had at Fayetteville.
“Coming into a different system — especially such a wide, expansive system like Spags’ — it’s giving you a bigger outlook on defense,” said Williams of the difference. “I did play a lot of press-man in college — but working with Coach Spags, working with [defensive backs] Coach [Dave] Merritt, [safeties] Coach Don [D’Alesio], they’re just opening my head up to different ideas [and] different techniques. I’m just trying to soak it up and help this team win.”
So far, Williams has worked strictly as an outside cornerback — while in recent years, Sneed has been the team’s primary slot corner. Sneed is still improving at that spot — which at times, is much more demanding than playing outside. Sneed said that in the slot, an individual player’s run fits make a big difference.
“I can jump gaps and make more plays,” he said, “tackles for loss and stuff like that... It’s all a mindset. There are some big guys [in there] you can’t go in there with a soft mindset.”
Based on his play on the field, no one would ever mistake Sneed for having a soft mindset. Off the field, we’ve never had to know if Sneed was a good leader — someone who can mentor young defensive backs — because he was also a young player.
While the 25-year old is definitely still young, he’s now sharing the wisdom he’s gained during his two NFL seasons — and making sure the new rookies can benefit from it.