With the season-ending injury to the rookie, safety Juan Thornhill in week 17 against the Los Angeles Chargers the Kansas City Chiefs suddenly found themselves without one of the brightest spots and most reliable parts of their defense. The injury will force second-year safety Armani Watts into more significant playing time. Watts, a fourth-round draft pick from Texas A&M, will need to step up as the Chiefs are about to begin their playoff run Sunday vs the Houston Texans. Watts had started to work into more playing time in 2018 till a groin injury in week five sidelined him for the rest of the season. Some thought Watts would gain more playing time in 2019 with the release of veteran All-Pro Eric Berry, but the acquisition of Tyrann Mathieu and strong play from Thornhill limited him to special teams for the most of the season.
Watts has made the most of his special teams time and made a nice play in week seven against Denver by snuffing out a fake punt and stopping it before it got going.
According to Pro-Football-Reference Watts only played 7% of Defensive snaps for the Chiefs this season which came out to only 74 plays. His film is few and far in between which is neither good nor bad because while he doesn’t have many tapes to go off of there are also not many other teams that will be able to target him on. Here is a play he made vs the Chargers in week 11 against the Chargers. Watts shows good open-field tackling ability which is important given how flexible the safety position is in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense.
Watts didn’t record an Interception or even a pass defended in 2019. To find one I had to review all the way back to the preseason. Here in pre-season game number one vs Cincinnati Watts is walked up on the line and gets his hands up to bat down the pass. This would be the only PD Watts recorded in the pre-season and regular season.
Here in Week 17 vs the Chargers Watts is the high safety. Rivers throws up a jump ball to Hunter Henry as the pocket collapses. Watts shows some hesitation and decides to stay back, which gives Henry just enough room to come down with the ball.
Later on the same drive, Watts shows good awareness to come down and tackle Keenan Allen to limit the gain. Unfortunately, he was flagged for “lowering” the helmet to make the tackle. On the tape, it doesn’t seem to be much lower but it is something he will need to clean up in the playoffs. Still, it was good awareness to come down and again he shows reliable tackling ability.
Here we see more reliable tackling as on the fourth and one Watts follows Henry across the line of scrimmage and fights off a block to tackle Austin Ekeler. After a review, the Chargers would get the first down but not by much. Still a good play by Watts which shows he is comfortable playing in the box and can quickly diagnose runs.
In garbage time V.S the Chicago Bears Watts shows his ability to read the deep pass from Mitch Trubisky which was intended for Allen Robinson. The throw was offline but Watts appeared to read the play well and would have been on time to make a play if the pass had been more online.
This is the kind of play recognition Watts will need to have in the playoffs especially against Houston who at some point will try to challenge the Chiefs deep.
Watts also has shown the ability to be able to diagnose underneath plays quickly and step up to make a play on the ball.
This clip from last year is a perfect example of Watts ball skills and should give Chiefs fans confidence in his ability to cover Tight ends as well as break up passes.
Watts is a strong tackler and has shown a knack for being able to diagnose underneath plays and coming up to make tackles. He will be able to play in the box if needed and has a nose for finding the ball. It is still unclear how he will play when teams want to throw the deep ball but the beauty of Steve Spagnuolo’s defense is he puts his players in a position to succeed and do what they are good at. Watts will have help deep if needed with All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu back with him. I expect this extra time off will benefit him the most of everyone on the team. An added week of practice and film study will provide him with the confidence to succeed. Watts will have a chance to show he belongs in KC and will be an interesting player to watch as the Chiefs move forward into the postseason.