Rookie CB L’Jarius Sneed was thrust into the starting lineup and into the national spotlight Thursday night, and man did he step up to the challenge. It was apparent that he had a target on his back after the Texans came out and targeted him with their first passing play from scrimmage, but Sneed managed to take that target and turn it back at the Texans. He looked like he could be a solid option in the league for years to come as an outside CB, something the Chiefs sorely need.
Most of the hype going to rookies after Thursday night was directed at Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and it was certainly most deserved. He ended the game with 138 rushing yards on 25 carries and 1 rushing TD, looking like a workhorse back for years to come. But another rookie on the other side of the ball looked like a workhorse as well, and that was L’Jarius Sneed. He was slated to start at 1 of the 2 outside corner positions with the 4 game suspension to Bashaud Breeland and a strong camp showing. This was certainly no easy feat for a rookie who didn’t have the benefit of any preseason games to knock off some of the rust and brush up on running the Chiefs defense in full speed. Sneed nonetheless came out like his hair was on fire, running step for step with Will Fuller V, who has been in the NFL 4 years and has made a name for himself in that time. Sneed had him covered like a pair of huggies early on. Then, after 30 or so snaps, the Chiefs other starting outside CB Charvarius Ward had to leave the game after he suffered a fracture in his hand. This put Sneed in the top CB slot, and man did he deliver. After giving up a touchdown to the Texans early, Sneed and the Chiefs defense held them scoreless for the next 2 quarters, allowing the Chiefs offense to score 24 unanswered points and only relenting in garbage time in the 4thquarter.
Sneed came into the league without much fanfare or hype after being the last pick of the 4thround out of Louisiana Tech, where he played CB until his final season when he was asked to make the move to Safety, which he did successfully. This made some teams reticent of asking him to make the switch back to corner which would require some adjustment time. But as Sneed showed Thursday, the adjustment time he needed was minimal. He has shown flashes of great top-end speed and aggressive play that made him so successful in the college game, and picked up his old CB position like he had never left.
Sneed did say he had to battle some nerves going into his first NFL game, saying in his post-game presser “I was nervous when I first got out but I trusted my film study during the week and my technique and what I’d been doing all week, so I knew I was gonna be all right.” The film study must have helped him play a clean game too, because he avoided penalties the entire game as well, which against Houston’s top WR is no easy feat. Sneed said it was something they worked on in training camp, saying “That’s something we always worked on during training camp- getting hands on early at the line of scrimmage, down the field don’t be touching and grabbing.” Clearly Sneed is a fast study, finishing the game with 3 tackles, 2 passes defended, and an interception that put the Texans away in the 4thquarter. The interception was caused by a QB hit by fellow DB Tyrann Matheiu, who also took notice of the game Sneed had saying after the game “I wouldn’t say I saw him having this day, but I did see the kid playing solid ball. I did see him making tackles and making plays.”
After a solid start to the season, it seems like Brett Veach has done it again, finding another diamond in the rough on a 4thround pick to add some solid play in the defensive backfield. If Sneed can keep playing the way he did on Thursday night, he will be an almost permanent fixture in the Chiefs defense for years to come. So huge props to both Brett Veach for finding Sneed, and to L’Jarius himself for stepping up to a huge challenge in week 1. Lets hope he can keep it going, because if he does, he will fast become a beloved part of the Chiefs Kingdom for years to come.