Chiefs Reveal ‘Interesting Strategy’ for Rookie Playing Time

Jaylen Watson, Joshua Williams

Getty Kansas City Chiefs rookie cornerbacks Jaylen Watson (left) and Joshua Williams (right) celebrate an interception.

The Kansas City Chiefs narrowed their search for their starting cornerback pairing when they traded away veteran Rashad Fenton.

With everyone else healthy for a change, that left three rookies to duke it out for two first-team roles beside nickel CB L’Jarius Sneed. Upon his return, it became apparent that one job would be Trent McDuffie’s for the foreseeable future — which makes sense given his draft status.

McDuffie looked great in Week 9, allowing zero receptions off two targets. The other outside cornerback role was a timeshare, however, and that’s the way Kansas City’s coaching staff apparently planned it.

Chiefs Reveal ‘Interesting Strategy’ for Rookie CBs

During his Week 10 press conference on November 10, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo admitted that he will be utilizing a bit of a rotation at the cornerback position.

“We had to go one way or the other,” Spagnuolo responded after being asked about his decision to start Joshua Williams. “The plan was to have Josh begin and then in the second or third series, Jaylen was going to be that guy so there was a rotation in there no matter what happened.”

Charles Goldman of USA Today’s Chiefs Wire tweeted out this quote while the presser was live, calling this an “interesting strategy” from Spagnuolo.

You see, plenty of NFL positions do rotate but cornerback is not usually one of them. D-coordinators and coaches typically reason that a CB-WR matchup is a game-long battle where the defender benefits from repetition — picking up on the different routes and winning the mental chess match.

That’s not to say it cannot be done, it’s just irregular. Having said that, this game plan would definitely make more sense for the Chiefs than another franchise.

Both Williams and Watson have had their ups and downs while McDuffie and Fenton were sidelined and splitting their snaps allows both to develop while KC decides which prospect they’re more confident in during a potential postseason run. It also keeps the youngsters fresh, which is never a bad idea with rookies.

Goldman did add that “we’ll see if [the rotation] continues to be the [strategy] moving forward.”

Steve Spagnuolo Impressed by Trent McDuffie’s Return

As for McDuffie, the first-rounder will look to keep things rolling against the Jacksonville Jaguars after a nice comeback against Tennessee. His coordinator praised his performance in Week 9.

“I thought he did a really good job,” Spagnuolo told reporters. “Sometimes corners don’t get any recognition when they’re doing exactly what you want them to do. They’re over there pressed [on the receiver] and the quarterback doesn’t throw it there, but he had two really good plays where he was hip-to-hip on a nine route.”

The Chiefs DC also credited all of his cornerbacks with looking for the ball when it’s in the air, which tends to negate any needless pass interference penalties.

Later, Spagnuolo commented on the other aspects of McDuffie’s game. “You gotta get involved in [stopping] the run too and I thought Trent did a pretty good job of that,” he voiced, noting that he liked how quickly McDuffie transitioned from man coverage to run defense on several instances.

He concluded: “Even though it wasn’t all pass [plays], we were happy with what he did” against the Titans.

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