clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A large preseason role is helping Felix Anudike-Uzomah’s scheme transition

After missing most of the offseason, Kansas City’s first-round selection is getting high snap counts.

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

In the first two weeks of the preseason, Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah — whom the team selected 31st overall in April’s NFL Draft — has played quite a bit. He was in for 46% of the defensive snaps against the New Orleans Saints and 60% of the snaps against the Arizona Cardinals. Among defensive players, his total of 77 ranks second.

The former Kansas State player is grateful for the heavy workload.

“Obviously,” Anudike-Uzomah explained to reporters after Monday’s practice, “playing my first game in a four-[man]-front is different from K-State — where we were in a three. And also, just the pace of it is different... The last two games were definitely something I needed.”

But after two exhibition games, Anudike-Uzomah knows he is not where he needs to be .

“Development-wise, I’ve still got a ways to go,” Anudike-Uzomah admitted. “I’ve gotten a little bit better [and] I’ve gotten the hang of things. But obviously, it’s just preseason. That was good work just to have me go out there and play against real people — [to] play against NFL people that are different from my teammates.”

NFL: Preseason-Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Even in these preseason games, Anudike-Uzomah has noticed the uptick in intensity at the professional level.

“It’s very noticeable,” he said, “but it’s a challenge that I’m willing to take. It’s the NFL now, so it’s what I’m going to have to deal with throughout my NFL career.”

To deal with that challenge, he knows where his focus needs to be.

“Playing faster and knowing footwork — and everything like that,” stated the former Wildcat. “The basic things just to stack on so I can be better.”

Following hand surgery, Anudike-Uzomah missed much of the offseason program. Early in camp, the team’s defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo described him as “rusty.” Anudike-Uzomah believes his coaches have put him back on schedule for the season.

“There’s quite a bit of catch-up,” he recalled, “but at the same time, I trust my coaches to put me in the best place possible. As long as I do what I need to do — or what they told me to do — I feel like I can be ready to be up to speed.”

One of his coaches is Chiefs defensive line coach Joe Cullen — who was widely credited last season for turning around the team’s pass-rushing unit that helped deliver a Super Bowl victory.

“He’s a very good coach,” Anudike-Uzomah said of Cullen. “Bottom line, [he’s] just being on tough on me. Obviously, you need to be tough on a rookie because everything’s not set in stone right when you walk on the field.

“Just being tough on me, teaching me how to become a good pass rusher, how to play technique right, how to do things people in the NFL do. Especially with the years he has in the NFL, there’s a lot of teaching he can bestow on me.”

NFL: JUL 23 Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Of course, rookies do not learn just from coaches. Second-year defensive end George Karlaftis has spoken many times of the valuable lessons he learned from former Kansas City pass rusher Frank Clark. Karlaftis is now in a position to do the same thing.

“In the meeting room, [Karlaftis] sees things that he also made mistakes in when he was a rookie,” Anudike-Uzomah revealed. “So, it’s just passing down basic advice from what he learned last year to this year.”

A Kansas City native, Anudike-Uzomah is living the feel-good story of a hometown player. During Saturday’s preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns, he will play in Arrowhead Stadium for the first time. The Lee’s Summit High School alumnus is ready to take in the moment — but he understands bigger moments lie ahead.

“It’s going to be special for me,” Anudike-Uzomah said of Saturday’s game, “but obviously I don’t want to dwell too much [on] that. I need to focus on what I need to for this game, what I need to improve on, [and] what happened from the last game to this game.

“It’s definitely going to be special — but at the same time, there’s stuff I need do to improve so I can be able to be ready to try to play with Detroit.”

While being a first-round selection carries pressure to produce almost immediately, Anudike-Uzomah is not ready to put specific goals on his season.

“I don’t really have expectations,” he declared. “The only thing for me personally is just to get better every day [and] to be the best person I can be. If I do that, I feel the sky is the limit.”

NEW: Join Arrowhead Pride Premier

If you love Arrowhead Pride, you won’t want to miss Pete Sweeney in your inbox each week as he delivers deep analysis and insights on the Chiefs' path to the Super Bowl.