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Overall, the Kansas City Chiefs have performed much more admirably defensively under the tutelage of Steve Spagnuolo. The defensive coordinator enters his fourth season in this position with the Chiefs. With Spagnuolo, the unit has learned how to better time up blitzes, how to better disguise mixes within their coverage shells and how to get off of the field more often in crucial situations.
There has always been one glaring point for Kansas City’s defense under Spagnuolo, however. Starting the season out hot has never been their strong suit. Opposing offenses have either left them confused or playing too safe. Missed assignments, missed tackles and failure to answer certain challenges has often put the entire team behind the eight ball. Sure, this defense has always been able to find a groove in the second half of the season.
Nonetheless, the Chiefs need a faster, more successful and more sound start defensively in 2022. One thing that has changed for this group? That would be the fact that the defensive nucleus is much younger. Seven of the 10 draft selections made by the Chiefs in April were on the defensive side of the ball. Meanwhile, five of those picks included players that will fill the secondary.
Could this new attitude and tenacity bring out a more aggressive start for the Chiefs defense? Will Spagnuolo be much more free in unleashing these younger pieces out of the gate, compared to what he has done in the past? We will answer those questions and more surrounding the youth movement of the new-look Kansas City Chiefs defense. Let’s kick it off.
If you just look at the Chiefs 2022 NFL Draft class alone, there are plenty of tone-setters to possibly count on in specific moments. Some players are more upfront about their tenacity. For instance, rookie third-round pick Leo Chenal answered that he brings “violence and physicality” to the Kansas City defense. He simply said that he is “addicted to hitting people.”
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— Sea of Red Nation (@seaofrednation) May 4, 2022
Others are more silent and relentless when creating major booms on defense.
The Chiefs, and generally Spagnuolo, were extremely high on a couple of names that fell to them. Namely, George Karlaftis and Bryan Cook are clear “Spags guys.” Karlaftis wins so many reps based on his motor and determination alone. Add in his swift, violent strikes at the point of attack, and Kansas City has a much more destructive defensive end than they have had in a while. On the other hand, Cook provides excellent instincts and hitting power. He can act as a jackhammer in the middle of the secondary. More importantly, Cook is rather persistent with his punishment throughout the course of games. He is also technically sound as a hitter or tackler, something that cannot be said about most incoming rookie defensive backs.
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Spags’ New Core
Beyond those few rookies, there are a few other younger pieces that are quickly earning their stripes. The Chiefs saw Nick Bolton explode out into a hot start as a rookie last season. Mind you, that solid production came in a rotational role. With Anthony Hitchens now out of the picture, Bolton can assume the position that he was drafted to play, MIKE linebacker. As we mentioned recently, he has already shown that he will not back down from any sort of challenge, on or off the field. That will help him become one of the new leaders of the Chiefs defense. And, Bolton is built perfectly for that capacity.
Outside linebacker Willie Gay has continued to mold into more of a complete defender as well. He not only plays with his hair on fire. But, Gay also provides Kansas City with the necessary twitch, long speed and reactionary quickness that is needed for the linebacker spot in today’s hasty pace of the NFL.
Newcomer Justin Reid is yet another player who is built perfectly to become part of “Spags’ new core.” The football IQ, physical brand and detail-oriented style that he puts on display will allow him to make plays in many areas of the field. That will be monumental for the Chiefs, as they no longer have someone like Tyrann Mathieu to carry out those assignments. Elsewhere, Reid has been rather impactful and steady when it comes to his ball production against the pass.
Different Kansas City Game Plan?
It is obvious that the Chiefs have undergone many changes to their roster this offseason. As a result, it remains to be seen what adjustments may be made. Could the offense become more balanced? Does the defense continue to improve in scoring defense like they did last season? Plus, are the Chiefs going to be able to fend off the division foes as well as they have in recent years within the AFC West?
Arguably, this new, young core is constructed perfectly for those possible threats or questions. Guys like Bolton and Gay proved that they are willing to take on any challengers from the opposing offense without any hesitancy. On top of that, the incoming rookies have a major opportunity in front of them. Not many young defenders have been given the same fate in Kansas City over the last few years. With having that to seize, the Chiefs young defense and overall new team core could benefit greatly because of the changes in philosophy. Moreover, the team hopes that this distinct group can be the ones to start a season off on the right foot under Spagnuolo.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles in the coming days. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– 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.
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