early returns on Kansas City Chiefs The class of 2022 was an impressive draft pick, especially in the defensive backfield. Five have been drafted in total at those positions, and four have already filled roles in Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnolo’s system.
They all made plays and did good things, but there’s still a lot to learn about the rookies. Sunday night was a good test, in a showdown Los Angeles Chargers With quarterback Justin Herbert and top wide receiver at the back: Keenan Allen.
The active rookie of the secondary with the most to learn is safety Brian Cook, who typically only plays base defense in the Dime personnel — bringing three safeties to the field at once. However, Spagnuolo got an unexpected opportunity to get a closer look Sunday night – when starting safety, Juan Thornhill left the game with a calf injury.
Spagnuolo overshadowed Thornhill’s injury negativity with praise for the second-round pick he stepped in.
“(Cook) Bryan has been one of my favorites from the start,” Spagnuolo admitted to reporters during a Zoom conference Tuesday afternoon. “I told him on the way back to training camp that I’d like to get more players like him.”
“He’s – I’ve said this before – he’s a cerebral player – and I like those kinds of players. In the position he plays, you need that. He’s smart at the back end. He’s a pivot. I think after a week of training where he gets all the Actors, I think he’ll be a little smoother. He was a little rusty, (he) had to beat rust in the game last week. But, we have a lot of faith in him.”
cook He played 57% of defensive snaps, and won three tackles While playing the second most number of shots he has in any game this season. Spagnuolo has hinted that Thornhill’s injury will continue through the next week, giving Cook a better chance to prove something in Week 11.
Thornhill has been excellent at the back end this season, Leads team in passes defended (6). However, the first drive of the game featured a 50-yard touchdown pass as Thornhill was the closest defender.
Cornerback Joshua Williams was in the area as well – but he jumped in to cover a road under him. Spagnuolo was vague about which of the two made a mistake.
“The first time around, we just needed to play better,” said Spagnolo. “Our men have to be deeper… One defender at the end should have played it a little differently. We clean that up and we’ll be fine, but it wasn’t a communication problem; it was more eyes than anything else.”
If it was Williams, it wasn’t his only tutorial of the evening.
On the Chargers’ late-game touchdown drive, wide receiver Keenan Allen ran upright against Williams on third down and 18. The rookie cornerback maintained tight coverage until the catch, then Allen rushed the ball for a 46-yard gain.
Spagnuolo had training points for Williams but emphasized that there are positives in the snap.
“The biggest point of coaching is that he’s got so much coverage,” Spagnuolo began. “He’s been in stride with him, and at that point, he’s got to become the receiver. What I mean by that is he’s got to find the ball just like [Allen] Do, just go play ball. He was caught playing the guy, and at that point late down the line, at the top of the road where this thing developed, he should have become the receiver. will learn it; I think he’ll learn and get better at it.”
Williams and Cook’s improvements will be important as they are both technically freshmen in Nickel and Dime defensive packages. Rookie linebacker Jaylen Watson alternates with Williams, however Williams has outscored Watson 96 to 42 Since rookie Trent McDuffie has returned to the starting lineup.
McDuffie didn’t pop up on Sunday, casually Allowing two catches of 16 yards on three targets. For this season, McDuffie He surrendered only eight catches on 13 targets, allowing an average of 9.4 yards per reception with one pass breakup on 129 coverage snaps.
The Defensive Rookies class has been great – but there’s still a lot of ways to improve. The Chargers were a case in point, but it all works out when those lessons learned come in wins.