‘Most Underappreciated’ Chiefs Player Predicts ‘Treasure Year’ in 2022

Juan Thornhill

Getty Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill believes he is approaching his "treasure year."

There have been a few harsh realities for Kansas City Chiefs fans in 2022.

One is the departure of Tyrann Mathieu in free agency. Even if the Chiefs are better off trusting in younger talents at safety, it’s still tough whenever a fan favorite leaves the building.

Having said that, the Mathieu era is now in the past and if this KC defense is going to improve in the present and future, they’ll need pieces like Justin Reid, Juan Thornhill, and rookie Bryan Cook to fill the void together.

The former second-round pick in 2019, Thornhill, appears ready for that challenge.

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‘Best I’ve Felt in a Long Time’

Thornhill recently took to Twitter to announce that this is “the best I’ve felt in a long time!!”

Not long before, he quote-tweeted the Chiefs’ official account after they voiced that he was entering his “golden year.” Thornhill made one correction, referring to it as the “treasure year.”

NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund might agree. She recently listed Thornhill as the Chiefs’ “most underappreciated player” heading into 2022, stating:

The Chiefs’ secondary changed significantly over the offseason, with the departures of Charvarius Ward, Mike Hughes, Daniel Sorensen and, most notably, Tyrann Mathieu — and Thornhill will be asked to continue the trajectory of improvement and reliable production he showed last season (remember, the defense had a big turnaround). The 2019 second-rounder set a career high in tackles (64) in 2021. It wasn’t just about more playing time, but also understanding and being able to fully execute defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. Computer vision shows that when Thornhill’s hips are facing the right direction at the time a ball arrives into his coverage area, opposing passers experience a decrease in passer rating of 35.5. The more Thornhill learns, the worse the opportunities will be for opposing passers.

That last part is arguably the most important. Thornhill’s improvements provide tangible results for Kansas City. Should he continue to learn and develop, the defense — and Thornhill — both will prosper.

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Results Have Varied

It seems like Thornhill himself is aware of the fact that he hasn’t played his best football yet. The Virginia prospect was supposed to flourish alongside Mathieu when he was drafted, but the results have been mixed.

According to Pro Football Focus, Thornhill had seven games with grades of 65.0 or higher last season. Disregarding the outings with under 30 snaps played, the safety accomplished this in seven of the 14 appearances where he factored as a major contributor.

That’s exactly 50%, and he’ll want to improve his consistency in 2022.

Outside of a couple of stark outliers, Thornhill was most consistent as a tackler a season ago with six scores over 80.0. His run defense and coverage didn’t have as many major lows but generally speaking, his marks were less impressive in those areas.

For example, he didn’t earn an 80.0 or higher grade in either category all season and only received two coverage marks over 70.0 and three run defense scores over that same plateau. Thornhill rarely rushed the passer in 2021, but it was not a strength either.

All of that is a ton of analytical speak though. In layman’s terms, there are two stats that really stand out as areas that need to get better — defensive stops and receptions allowed.

Thornhill only made nine defensive stops last year — which are determined as any tackle that constitutes an offensive failure. That ranked tied for 15th on Kansas City’s roster. He also allowed a reception percentage of 75%, which could obviously be better.


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