With mandatory minicamp set to begin this week, it’s time to continue looking at possible Chiefs breakout candidates. The player we will be looking at today is safety Armani Watts. Watts, a fourth round pick in 2018, had his rookie campaign cut short last year. In Week 5 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Watts suffered a core muscle injury. This injury forced Kansas City to place him on injured reserve.
Before that injury, Watts was just starting to come into his own. He only saw a handful of defensive snaps through five games. But, it was encouraging to see the Chiefs putting him in different positions all over the field. With that trust the Chiefs already showed in him, Watts had to step up in big moments. He did just that in his last couple of games. Watts recorded a sack in a rare Bob Sutton defensive back blitz call, which kept things close in order for Kansas City to comeback and win at Denver. Then the following week versus Jacksonville, Watts made a key pass deflection on third down at the goal line.
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Even with those glimpses Watts showed, how will a new defensive regime utilize him? The Chiefs also have a completely different safety depth chart since Watts last played. Tyrann Mathieu is set to be the leader of this new look defense. Also, rookie draft pick Juan Thornhill is already turning heads. Just like us, the Chiefs are eager to see if Watts can break out from the pack.
In Spags We Trust
Despite the other safeties on the depth chart, there’s good reason to believe that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can find a spot for Watts in this defense. Spags loves to use defensive back blitzes off of the edge, or straight up the middle gaps. Watts showed small glimpses when blitzing last year. He even recorded twenty-four sacks in college while playing at Texas A&M, ten of which came during his senior season.
When Spags uses five or more defensive backs in pass situations, the Chiefs have an opportunity to showcase Watts’ versatility. Last year he showed comfort in playing in the slot against bigger bodies, as well as being a rangy safety to top off the back of the defense. The versatility Watts displays is a key for him being coached by someone like Spagnuolo. Reason being is, sometimes the unpredictable tendencies of Spagnuolo’s defenses allow for free chances from players on the backend.
While Watts has the upside and ability to breakout, the training camp battle between the safeties could be the toughest one Kansas City has had in a long while. The tough thing for Watts is that he is coming off of the season ending injury from 2018. We know Mathieu will start. The rest will all be decided by competition. Besides Watts, there’s highly touted rookie Thornhill. Those two players, along with Watts, likely head into camp as the top three safeties. Both Daniel Sorensen and Jordan Lucas will have more of an uphill battle to climb in camp. If Watts can make the team, his ability could add a lot to the attitude the Chiefs want instilled in their defense.
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– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.