Andy Reid Names Chiefs’ Replacement for LB Willie Gay

Darius Harris

Getty Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Darius Harris during the 2022 preseason.

If you’re holding out hope for an appeal of the Willie Gay Jr. suspension, there won’t be one.

The Athletic’s Nate Taylor informed Chiefs Kingdom after the initial announcement that “there will not be an appeal from Willie Gay,” and that “the NFL said the 4-game suspension is the final resolution.”

That shifts the focus to question number two: Who will take on Gay’s role in the defense during his absence? Fortunately for fans, head coach Andy Reid revealed that piece of information today.

Andy Reid Awards Darius Harris With Willie Gay Duties

At the start of his press conference on September 21, Coach Reid noted Gay’s suspension, voicing that reserve linebacker “Darius Harris can fill in there.”

“We’ve got people to fill in,” Reid elaborated, “but Darius has a chance to step in there.”

Many believed Gay’s absence might open the door for rookie Leo Chenal, who has been yet another bright spot in this 2022 draft class. Instead, the Chiefs have elected to go with the experience of Harris in the heavily utilized LB2 role.

According to Pro Football Focus, Gay played 69 defensive snaps out of a potential 75 in Week 2 — second to middle linebacker Nick Bolton (72) at the position. The next highest LB snap count behind the pair of starters was Chenal with 22.

The reason for this comes with the nature of a 4-3 system in the modern-day NFL. With more teams utilizing three-WR sets than ever before on offense, most 4-3 coordinators counter that by dropping a linebacker in favor of a nickel corner that mans the slot.

In these sub-packages, Bolton and Gay remain on the field. So rather than alter the entire scheme, asking Chenal to pick up the weak-side linebacker duties, Reid and DC Steve Spagnuolo have decided to keep the rookie as the strong-side backer and LB3. This position generally involves responsibilities having more to do with run defense and blitzing the quarterback.

Harris, on the other hand, would be asked to help out more in coverage and the open field as a tackler. They’re two different positions with two different skill sets.

“He’s coming off a good preseason,” Reid told reporters when asked about the Harris decision. “He kind of knows everything — he’s a sharp kid… He’s tough, got a good concept of the defense so I think he’ll do a nice job — physically, good size.”

As for Chenal, Reid explained that “he’s playing quite a bit at the other [linebacker] spot.” He added: “We just kind of left him there, make sure we have that [role] taken care of too.”

Week 3 Injury Update From Andy Reid

Outside of Gay, the injury update was light from Big Red ahead of the matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. He opened by revealing that kicker Harrison Butker (ankle) and defensive lineman Mike Danna (calf) did not practice today on Wednesday of Week 3.

Later in the presser, he followed up with more information on Butker.

“[Ankles are] tricky,” Reid answered. “I’m not necessarily telling you it’s a high-ankle sprain, it’s an ankle sprain, but it’s a matter of getting the swelling out.”

Matt Ammendola is still on the practice squad in case of a Week 3 absence for Butker. The former New York Jets kicker went five for five during his first outing with the Chiefs — two field goals and three extra points. He was not asked to do too much, however, with his longest attempt being from 31 yards out.

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