The progress of Willie Gay Jr. was on full display during the Chiefs big win over Denver on Sunday.
In the history of the Kansas City Chiefs, linebacker has always been a special position. From Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier during the Hank Stram era, to Derrick Thomas with Marty Schotenheimer, and most recently with the franchise all-time leading tackler Derrick Johnson, the position has always been historically a strong suit for the Chiefs. Lately it hasn’t been as strong, but the next great Chiefs linebacker is on the way.
In his first season we have seen Willie Gay Jr. be slowly implemented into the Chiefs defense, from not playing a snap in week one vs the Houston Texans to getting up to over 30 in the week five loss against the Las Vegas Raiders. That game exposed the Chiefs issues at linebacker, but it also gave Gay a chance to have a few stand out plays.
A week later against the Buffalo Bills, Gay only played a handful of snaps, which lead to some speculating whether he had regressed. One week later, he got the start vs Denver and also tallied 39 snaps, a career-high. This tells us that Steve Spagnuolo is getting more comfortable with his rookie backer playing more downs.
Of course it also helps that Gay showed up and made some very good plays, starting with a few impressive run stuffs.
Gay has shown his ability to play runs in the box through the limited snaps he has had so far this season, and it has been one of his best traits. He is physical by nature which makes him highly effective as an inside player, but this week we also got to see his progression against the passing game.
Up until this week Gay hadn’t been used on many passing downs, but it was good to see him step up and knock down two passes. On both of those plays it appeared as though Lock wanted to drop it right over his head, however he did not anticipate the vertical capabilities of Gay. When you see a player like Gay, who has tremendous athletic traits, and you see them start to figure out the game, it is a wonderful thing to watch.
This week the Chiefs will play a very poor New York Jets team. It should be an opportunity for the Chiefs to get Gay as many reps as possible, but will also put him in different situations. He has shown great growth in a short amount of time, and I predict he will show more very soon.