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Training camp notebook: Steve Spagnuolo talks defense’s 3 free-agent additions

On Monday, Kansas City’s defensive coordinator discussed his newest veteran acquisitions.

Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Each year, we see many training camp plotlines about NFL teams finding their identity.

In his final meetings of every season, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid will thank that particular team for their efforts — because he knows that particular group of men will never be together again. In this league, roster turnover is inevitable — and that means that teams need to seek (and find) a new identity every season.

While the Chiefs are returning nine of 11 Super Bowl starters on defense, three free-agent additions will help mold the unit’s 2023 identity.

The first is former San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, whom Kansas City likes for his inside-outside versatility. He is expected to spend most of his time inside, next to defensive tackle Chris Jones (you know — once he arrives).

“I think he’s a passionate football player; he’s really into it,” said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo during his first media availability of training camp. “Like [Monday], I watched him make a play, and he was fired up for himself. But when I watched him a couple plays later, one of his teammates — a D-line teammate — made a big play, and he was just as fired up for those guys. I like that. That’s not a vet that’s sitting over there thinking about himself. He’s thinking about his teammates, and I like that part of him. He’s been a really good addition to this point. Hopefully, it shows up in the games.”

In the second level, the Chiefs signed linebacker Drue Tranquill away from the Los Angeles Chargers. Tranquill led Los Angeles with 146 tackles (95 solo) in 2022 — and Spagnuolo said he has been working at MIKE, SAM and WILL during this training camp.

“He’s a guy that’s played a bunch of different positions,” said Spagunuolo. “[He’s] really intelligent. It’s funny. I’ve had a bunch of free agents come into systems in the years I’ve been here — and sometimes, it takes a while for guys to get comfortable with their surroundings, with their teammates.

“[With] Drue, it’s like he stepped right in and has been here for three years in terms of communicating with his teammates — what he did off the field, how much of a pro he is. He’s had a great influence on not just the linebacker room but the defense in general.”

In the back end, the Chiefs saw safety Juan Thornhill sign a new contract with the Cleveland Browns. While second-year safety Bryan Cook will benefit the most regarding snaps, veteran Mike Edwards — who previously played in a similar system with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — is expected to serve Kansas City as a third safety.

Edwards came up to St. Joseph early after missing on-field work during organized team activities (OTAs) due to injury.

“Unfortunately for him, he missed all of the foundational reps back in the spring,” said Spagnuolo. “He was dealing with the injury. And then I don’t think he was able to train quite like he normally would because of the hamstring and groin — a pull. But mentally, he’s in a much better place now than he was even back then. He’s been in the league. He’s a pro. Guys have come from other teams [to] our system in the past — and in all the years I’ve been doing it, it usually takes a little while.

“Mike’s come from another multiple system, and I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. It’s just going to be terminology — we might do something a little bit different, but I think he’s used to having a volume of defenses. I think he’ll be fine.”

Omenihu, Tranquill and Edwards weren’t members of the Chiefs last year, but they were drawn to Kansas City to be part of what Spagnuolo has been building since 2019.

All three will play a vital role in this year’s identity, which Kansas City hopes is a top-10 defense.


You can find my complete observations from Monday’s practice here.

Post-practice chat and press conferences

If you can’t see the above (Apple iTunes) embed, click here. The press conference is also available on Spotify.

Injury report

  • Did not practice (due to injury): WR Kadarius Toney (knee injured on 7/23)
  • Limited: RB Isiah Pacheco (hand, labrum)
  • Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List: DT Tershawn Wharton (ACL)
  • Returned to practice: OL Wanya Morris (hamstring)

Tweet of the day

Our John Dixon compiled all of Monday’s tweets here. Here is the tweet of the day:

This time it was Mahomes throwing it up.

Quote of the day

Chiefs wide receiver Skyy Moore, smiling about his favorite receiver: “I love Richie [James]. Richie’s my favorite receiver right now... I like how he moves. He does the stuff that — I think I’m doing what he’s doing, but he kind of does it a little different.”

What’s next?

The Chiefs return to the practice field on Tuesday morning for their third full-team practice of training camp. The workout begins at 9:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. Head coach Andy Reid is scheduled to address the media following the practice as the team’s linebackers sign autographs. Here’s the complete 2023 training camp schedule.

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