Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive rookies are hitting their stride at the perfect time
The ability to identify advantages in the passing game is a key component of the NFL’s success today. This includes both the schematic advantages and the roster-building strategies.
The Chiefs are clearly the better team on the field. Patrick Mahomes Their offense has Mahomes leading the charge. Mahomes is unquestionably the best quarterback in the NFL, and he provides a tremendous competitive advantage against any defense. The team traded Tyreek Hill and didn’t see a dip on offense.
Although Mahomes is obvious as a benefit in the passing game, the Chiefs also have an advantage on the opposite side of the ball with a number of rookies who played at a high level during this Super Bowl run.
It’s not a secret at this point, but the Chiefs hit a grand slam with their 2022 draft class, and they did it in an unusually valuable manner. Trent McDuffie, George Karlaftis, Bryan Cook, Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson have played a ton of reps on this Chiefs’ defense and are positively impacting what they’re able to do against opposing passing games. There are teams on which rookies have to play a boatload of snaps, but they usually aren’t championship contenders; a youth movement of this magnitude is typically reflective of a team attempting to rebuild its program.
The Chiefs’ rookies know that the position they’re being put in and the results they’re producing are rare.
“It’s always been a little talk around the facility,” Trent McDuffie, one of the Chiefs’ first-round picks this year, said about the success of their rookie defenders. “I think these guys do such a good job at just staying in the moment. Just taking things one day at a time.”
McDuffie also gave credit to the humble mentality displayed by this group of players throughout the season, which helped them become a competent defense. Being able to work with great players like Chris Jones This is obviously a great help. However, the Chiefs defense has improved as their rookies gain more NFL experience.
The Chiefs rank 10th (-0.029) in expected points allowed per game, according to Ben Baldwin from The Athletic. They were 23rd for expected points allowed per game in the first seven weeks of this season (0.050). This is a group that has improved greatly over the course of the season, and they’re playing rookies at positions that require a high level of impact to swing games in the Chiefs’ favor. This isn’t a host of run-stuffing defensive tackles or linebackers expected to be downhill thumpers. These are cornerbacks and safeties as well as a pass rusher. These are the positions you need to be at your best during this season.
Having these guys play well at their current rookie salaries ends up making Mahomes’ deal more valuable as well. Football analysts have argued this point to death, but it is important to recognize that getting value from lower-paid players can lead to team success immediately. Those guys, if their trajectories continue upward, will get big contracts in their second deals, but for now, it’s really beneficial to the Chiefs for them to be making the money they are. There’s also the point that practicing against Mahomes, Travis Kelce Andy Reid, every day is baptism by flame to get these young players up and running a little faster.
“I think it made us mature that much quicker,” McDuffie said of his practice battles against Mahomes and Kelce. “Mahomes is out there throwing no-look passes. You got Kelce running routes that I’ve never seen before. It was just like, ‘Woah, this is a whole new game for us.’ To be able to compete with guys like that every single day, nothing is surprising after that.”
This incredible rookie class faces their final test in a duel Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, but there’s no backing down from these Chiefs rookies. They are ready for whatever comes their way.