The Kansas City Chiefs’ defense has been a pleasant surprise this season. While its elite play is usually credited to its fierce and imposing pass rush, the secondary joined in on the fun in Week 3, recording its first interception of the season on this play against the Chicago Bears.
Although the ball landed in the hands of safety Mike Edwards, the key to the turnover was the pass being tipped by the Chiefs’ veteran safety Justin Reid.
In fact, the play showcases everything Kansas City’s coaching staff likes about Reid as he enters his second year with the team.
“I think he’s [as much] a key to [the secondary’s success] as anything,” said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo during his Thursday press conference. “You know he got plugged in — comes in as a free agent [and] he gets plugged in right away — and yet doesn’t know the system. So now that he does, he’s a confident player. When he knows something and he’s confident, he’s vocal with it — and that’s what he is now.”
Spagnuolo also feels that Reid’s communication — along with the leadership of his other leaders like third-year player Nick Bolton and second-year player Bryan Cook — has been a key to its play as a cohesive unit.
“Those are the signal callers — the communicators back there,” said Spagnuolo, “and they’re pretty fast with it. So it works out good.”
But praise for Reid did not stop with Spagnuolo. Defensive backs coach Dave Merritt highlighted the safety’s ability to recall, process and execute information in a timely manner.
“That Stanford education is coming into play,” Merritt said of Reid. “This man’s ability to recall information — almost a photographic memory, as well — his ability to be able to go out and understand what was given out to him two [or] three weeks ago? And [then] recall that and execute what we’re asking him to do? [It’s] been phenomenal.”
Having a high football IQ is very beneficial — particularly in a complex defensive system like Spagnuolo’s. The defense also requires is safeties to be versatile — something that Merritt highlights as one of Reid’s greatest strengths.
“He’s taking the steps that I hoped he would take,” he revealed. “With him going forth and playing free, he’s playing so many different positions. He’s playing free safety [and] he goes down and is playing dime linebacker, so he’s just moving around all the time. He has done an excellent job with bringing the other guys along — and knowing the checks before they happen.”
With Reid in the game, Merritt has the utmost confidence that his secondary will be in the right position to take on whatever the opposing offense throws at them.
“[Then he] becomes a coach on the field,” said Merritt. “That’s what Justin has done for us — and he’s doing a great job.”