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Trent McDuffie believes L’Jarius Sneed is having an All-Pro season

Kansas City’s top cornerback may still be unknown elsewhere, but his teammates and coaches see his skills.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs have a number of big-name players on their roster. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones are all legitimate NFL stars.

But with this season’s defensive emergence, other Kansas City players are making a name for themselves. Among them is cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who is evolving from being a playmaking slot defender to a shutdown outside corner.

“He’s played at a very high level,” head coach Andy Reid noted of Sneed when he spoke to the media collective on Wednesday. “We’ve asked him to play against the best — and he rises up to it. You never take it for granted, but you sure know that he’s a competitor that way — and [he] steps up when needed.”

Still, the latest Pro Bowl voting data shows that outside of Chiefs Kingdom, Sneed is not yet a highly-regarded player. While teammates like Jones and Kelce lead the voting in their position groups, Sneed ranks ninth among cornerbacks.

Second-year cornerback Trent McDuffie is also playing very well this year, but hasn’t yet cracked the top 10 in Pro Bowl voting. It’s not something either player is thinking about — but for his part, McDuffie recognizes the performances his teammate has been putting together.

“He’s special,” McDuffie said of Sneed on Wednesday. “You’re talking about somebody who — each and every week — goes out there, travels and plays man-to-man against the No. 1 receiver on the other team. He holds them to under 100 yards in most cases. That’s huge.”

Sneed has already matched up some of the league’s best receivers this season, holding star wideouts like Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown and Stefon Diggs to well below their season averages by using both his physicality and finesse.

“He can do it all,” added McDuffie. “He can bail. He can press. He’s long. He’s jamming guys and keeping them at the line of scrimmage. I think he’s having an All-Pro season.”

Since All-Pro voting is restricted to journalists, it’s possible that those voters will recognize the season Sneed has been putting together. While playing against the league’s best wideouts, Sneed is tied for 10th in passes defended (11) among cornerbacks — and at the same time, he’s Kansas City’s fourth-leading tackler (63).

Playing in front of him on the defensive line, Jones doesn’t get to see the cornerback in action very often. But the star pass rusher only has to turn on the film to see what Sneed has been doing.

”He has been following around the best receivers,” said Jones. “He has been doing it consistently throughout this year... and holding his own. That just speaks to his game: how he has been able to progress throughout not only last year, but this year. It’s not just a week thing. He has been doing it the whole season.”

As a defensive lineman, Jones knows that the physical warfare from snap-to-snap can be tough — but he recognizes that cornerbacks like Sneed also have a very difficult job.

“Playing defensive back is one of the toughest positions in the league,” Jones reminded reporters. “You’re going against guys that run a 4.3 [forty-yard dash]... When you don’t know where you’re running to — and you have to mirror that — to have those instincts and do it at a high level? I have nothing but praise for L.J.”

Jones is also aware that Sneed’s play has been a key reason the Kansas City defense has sometimes been able to carry the team to wins by turning explosive offenses into average units. Jones also knows that players like Sneed will continue to be key contributors in the season’s most important games — which are still on the horizon.

“We have a couple more games to go,” he remarked, “where we need him to be dominant.”

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