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Kansas City has long relied on their offense to get the job done. While there have been flashes and growth from parts of the defense, the Chiefs have largely dealt with vulnerabilities on that side of the ball. In years past, items like run defense, a lack of consistency in the pass rush and a lack of depth at cornerback handcuffed their options. Some of those issues have resonated here and there again this season. Yet, it is the defensive core that has been built, that continues to evolve and improve for the Chiefs.
One player who has seemingly always had success with Kansas City relished the opportunity in a new role last week. That player would be L’Jarius Sneed. Sneed entered the league as more of a slot cornerback. Of course, his ability to help in run support and in the pass rush has been crucial to the Chiefs and their success over the years. Nonetheless, his new opportunity allows Sneed to thwart opponents in a variety of ways. It also has plenty of potential, when it comes to improving the Chiefs defense as a whole.
What makes L’Jarius Sneed a perfect fit for this new role? How does it benefit the rest of the Kansas City defense, as a result? Finally, can this be the exact adjustment that the Chiefs defense needed, before facing some flashy offenses in the playoffs? Let’s kick it off.
What Exactly Is Sneed’s New Role?
Going into last week’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, it was reported that Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo asked L’Jarius Sneed if he was comfortable with this new assignment. That would be an assignment in which he would travel with the opponent’s top wide receiver, one-on-one. We have rarely, if ever, seen that during this player’s career. But, he was willing to answer the challenge. For the most part, Sneed was effective in locking down one of the league’s most physically imposing wide receivers, DK Metcalf.
Sure, Metcalf made one long catch on a deep ball. Outside of that, Sneed stayed on top of his routes, while also occasionally throwing him off track during the play. More importantly, Sneed did not allow a touchdown catch to Metcalf. That may seem like a simple item to help determine how successful of a day it was for Kansas City’s defense. However, this team had given up a fair amount of touchdown catches to team’s top weapons in recent weeks. By following the opponent’s top wide receiver, L’Jarius Sneed forces some of the best pass catchers to outsmart him and outwork him. Even if they best him on a rep or two, his skill set cannot be outmatched for all four quarters.
How Does This Benefit The Rest Of The Chiefs Defense?
Outside of those last few points, the new role benefits the Chiefs defense, altogether. Kansas City knows that the opponent’s top receiving option is going to be forced to outsmart the wisdom of L’Jarius Sneed. Whether they attempt to beat the Chiefs cornerback out wide or in the middle of the field, Kansas City believes that Sneed can excel from any area of the field.
As for the rest of the secondary, this allows them to rotate and disguise coverages more often. That has been absent more often recently, perhaps because of the youth of the Chiefs defensive back room, overall.
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Sneed lining up with the top option one-on-one also makes the jobs much easier in the front seven of the Kansas City defense. At linebacker, the pair of Nick Bolton and Willie Gay are not forced to gain as much depth, especially not as quickly as possible. That allows them to maintain correct body positioning, while also allowing them to be aggressive against opposing quarterbacks.
Finally, the Chiefs defensive line and pass rush can also benefit from the stiffness of Sneed’s coverage. It forces the quarterback to hold onto the ball longer, allowing chances for the pass rush to get home earlier. Elsewhere, Kansas City’s pass rush can offer more diversity and deception to their blitz calls, something that has also been occurring less lately.
Sneed’s Mentality And Personal Growth
The mentality and personal growth of L’Jarius Sneed has spread to valuable lessons on the field. That has certainly extended to motivating his defensive teammates, to boot. In the latest episode of the Franchise on the Chiefs’ YouTube channel and other platforms, Sneed talked about growing up with his grandmother from each side of his family. With some of his family not around, he had to channel everything and learn to focus on the most important things that could continue to help him grow and succeed.
In order to accomplish his ultimate goal of reaching the NFL, L’Jarius Sneed discussed his constant use of self-motivation after growing up in tough times. During that episode, he explained how he is learning that you have to keep going in life, while still using that motivation for challenges that he endures today.
With that hard-working, soft-spoken attitude, L’Jarius Sneed is not going to shy away from any challenge. When lining up with a team’s top wide receiver one-on-one, that motivation is exuded strongly. Sneed can continue to let his play and actions speak for themselves. All told, it is amazing to see how he continues to grow while in this new role, especially with his past triumphs in a Chiefs uniform already.
L’Jarius Sneed has experience as a versatile, do-it-all chess piece. Because of that, he can lean on many different traits in this new role that pits him in a one-on-one matchup. Sneed’s aforementioned lessons learned off of the field has built up the necessary confidence to help him hang with a team’s best pass catcher.
On the other hand, Sneed is used to matching up with receivers of all shapes and sizes. This even goes back to his college days. For instance, Sneed played both safety and cornerback at Louisiana Tech. He can run step for step with the fastest of wideouts. At the same time, Sneed has the length and tenacity to frustrate longer, more physical pass catchers. As a result, L’Jarius Sneed has many clubs that he can pull out of his bag and rely on, so to speak. The well-rounded skill set of this Chiefs cornerback allows him to dictate how opponents will have to answer. You could say the same thing for how quarterbacks will have to approach attacking him, while Sneed is manned up one-on-one.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles and analysis throughout this week. 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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