In the modern pass-happy NFL there is no more important unit on the defensive side of the football than the secondary, and in particular CB. While some may argue that being able to rush the passer is more valuable than lockdown corner play, it is not possible for an elite edge rusher to get a sack every play, let along a pressure or hurry. It is entirely possible however for an opposing teams QB to target a CB every single play, something we have seen all to often in Kanas City.
In 2018 the Chiefs secondary was arguably the weakest link on the worst defense in the NFL, one that would ultimately cost the Chiefs a trip to the Super Bowl, but from the ashes of the often scorched unit a player had started to emerge, one that would help the team ultimately win Super Bowl 54 the next season.
Charvarius Ward had started to come on strong toward the end of 2018 but was still relatively unknown headed into the 2019 season around the NFL. That being said Chiefs Kingdom as well as the Chiefs coaching staff new the potential a player like Ward possessed. Once the season started Ward did not disappoint.
The very definition of an every-down player for the Chiefs and one that played the game a high level as well, in 2020 Ward will be looking to enter his contract season in Kansas City which means that potentially millions of dollars will be on the line given the way he is able to perform. Ward will cost the Chiefs around just one million dollars for the 2020 NFL season, which for a player that was acquired via trade after not being drafted, and given the production, he provided the Chiefs last season is an absolute steal. Ward could be a candidate for an extension in the future, but that is a story for another day. Ward has been outstanding and was an absolute factor in the Chiefs run to glory, but as it stands now, he is the only returning member of the CB unit with extensive experience, as well as no off the field issues.
Baushaud Breeland was a player for the Chiefs in 2019 who stepped up in the biggest moments of games and had a huge impact on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Breeland joined the Chiefs on a one year deal and from the minute he set foot in Kansas City it became clear he would be playing opposite of Ward for most of the season. While he had some early struggles for the Chiefs he played outstanding the second half of the season and into the playoffs.
Not only did Breeland come in and play well in the biggest games of the season he came up clutch, especially against the New England Patriots on the road, as well as in the Super Bowl.
After the season some expected Breeland to get offered a sizable contract by another team and he was seen by many as a luxury the Chiefs would no longer be able to afford. However, as the free agency period started up and things started to get moving some Chiefs fans were wondering why Breeland hadn’t been picked up yet as well as if maybe the Chiefs were in negotiations to bring him back. The Chiefs would eventually bring back Breeland on a one year $4.5 million dollar deal, which some saw as a steal for the world champions. It would later be revealed as to why the Chiefs were able to get Breeland back so cheap. Breeland was facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, which he did appeal, but this information was not made public until after video showed Breeland being arrested on possession of marijuana as well as suspicion of driving under the influence. What’s done is done but Breeland will have to miss time to start the season, which will hurt a Chiefs secondary that is lacking experience, especially after the departure of Kendall Fuller in free agency. It will take some serious work from defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo but the Chiefs do have options, one of which is already a member of the team and a Super Bowl Champion.
Fenton didn’t have a tremendous impact early in the season for the Chiefs but he became a guy that they knew they could trust as the season progressed, and in his limited amount of play this past season he showed that he is a capable player, and even found himself on the field for big reps at the end of the season. He started to find a home as more of an inside slot corner and came in for Fuller a few times, as well as playing the almost “deep slot” where he lines up a safety depth before coming up presnap. Fenton showed that he has to tools to be on the field but he may not be cut out for being an every-down outside corner but he is capable of playing on the inside in the right situation.
One of the Chiefs only free agent signings, Hamilton has been mostly a special teams player in his four years in the NFL but he does have some experience playing as an outside corner.
When he was signed many expected his role as a special teamer and back up corner to continue in Kansas City, but with the Breeland situation things have gotten more interesting.
If the Chiefs are serious about Hamilton playing big reps as an outside corner then they will need a plan to find ways to help him, because he is only average at best, despite having four years experience. General Manager Veach has been proven in the past to be a man with a plan, and while Hamilton does have experience playing the outside spot the Chiefs might have found their answer in the draft.
Over the past year, it has become evident what Brett Veach and Steve Spagnuolo like in corners. They want someone on the taller side, preferably with longer arms, but the biggest trait is physicality and aggressiveness. The Chiefs defense is willing to give up a pass interference if it means not allowing a big play downfield, especially if it is a 50/50 ball. Combine this with a willingness to tackle, and is a versatile player that is able to play inside or outside, in a man look or zone then that is a pretty good blueprint for what the Chiefs want in a corner. L’Jarius Sneed fits this description perfectly.
Many thought the Chiefs would go corner early in this years draft but in true Veach and Reid fashion they didn’t just make a panic pick early just to take a name. They made the right choice later on, and got what looks like their man they want to step in a potentially play some big reps early. Sneed played Safety in his final season at Louisiana Tech but his natural position is corner, and it is the position the Chiefs drafted him to play.
The Chiefs have not had a ball-hawking corner that can be a threat to steal a possession every game since Marcus Peters was traded but they might have just added another playmaker to a budding defense. Sneed is willing to tackle and his eight career interceptions in the college show that the Chiefs are ready to add another dimension to their defense, one that could potentially make it elite. Sneed will have his time to show the Chiefs what he can do with Breeland’s pending suspension. It might start with trial by fire against the Houston Texans and Deshaun Watson but Sneed has the tools and the coaching to become a difference maker sooner than later.
The Peanut Gallery
If the Chiefs are able to find a consistent contributor out of this bunch it would be huge, but also show just how much the Chiefs value player development as well as finding under the radar contributors. Ward was once in this group but has since graduated to becoming a near lock down player at his position, so the question to ask is who could be next in line. The Chiefs traded back into the draft to select BoPete Keyes in the seventh round of the draft, and Keyes fits the profile for what Spags and has been shown to have very good feet, and really appears to excel in playing tight man coverage and mirroring the receivers he goes against.
The Chiefs also added a number of UDFA’s to the roster, some with real potential to make the roster. Lavert Hill from Michigan was given over $100K signing bonus to come to Kansas City, which is a pretty good indicator that the team will have an interest in him being a potential member of either the team or practice roster. Potentially the Chiefs biggest UDFA hit on the roster might have been Javaris Davis from Auburn.
Davis is undersized for what Spags usually prefers in a corner but he makes up for it with athletic ability and playmaking ability. Davis uses his athletic ability and instinct to cover huge chunks of the field and really has an impressive range for a player listed at only 5’8″. Alex Brown was on the rosters last season but was on the practice squad but did find his way onto the special teams unit by the time the playoffs rolled around. Of all the players on the roster at the corner, he might have the most questions surrounding him despite the fact he was on the roster. There will be some very compelling competitions for this unit to come to camp.
The corner is not a position the Chiefs can afford to spend big money at nor will it be in the future. One of Brett Veache’s first big moves as general manager was to trade Marcus Peters who was a year off from a big payday. The Chiefs cap make up of offensive stars and big money in players like Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu on the defensive side of the ball, with potential big contracts for Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones on the horizon doesn’t leave much spare room for the team to pay for an elite corner in free agency, and with the NFL’s receiver talent getting better by the day more corners are going earlier in the draft, a place the Chiefs won’t be for a while. Brett Veach knows all of this, and that is the magic of selecting under the radar or forgotten players. In one season Charvarius Ward a relative unknown became a key contributor on a championship team. That should instill confidence in Chiefs fans that the scouting process with these players is working. At some point in 2020, Baushaud Breeland will return but until then it could be corner by the committee for the Chiefs, and as camp and the pre-season play out we should have a good idea for what the Chief’s rotation will be. What the unit as a whole lacks in the overall experience they have in support from the coaching staff, as well as a safety play. Tyrann Mathieu is an All-Pro, Juan Thornhill could be a breakout star, and Daniel Sorensen is as steady as they come. Spag’s will put this unit in a position to succeed. It could look rough early, but as we have seen adjustments can be made, and with adjustments come breakout players.