For the first two years of his career as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Anthony Hitchens has been criticized for his large contract, and not playing up to it. In his third year for the Chiefs, he is showing up and has been a bright spot on the defensive side of the ball.
Over the month of November, the Chiefs defense has been under scrutiny for poor play, but one player that has quietly stood out in that time has been veteran linebacker Anthony Hitchens. One of the first players that Brett Veach went after once he took over as General Manager in Kansas City was Hitchens who at the time was playing for the Dallas Cowboys. Brett Veach gets his man, and he got Hitchens for five years and $45 million dollars with $21 million guaranteed, and a $14 million dollar signing bonus.
Since he came to town in 2018, Hitchens has been up and down, to say the least. Being a natural 4-3 mike linebacker he struggled with playing in Bob Suttons 3-4 “scheme”, but he also had trouble last season in the 4-3 that Steve Spagnuolo implemented. This had drawn the ire of many fans but this season seems to be Hitchens best yet.
Since the third week of the season, Hitchens has looked very comfortable in the role the Chiefs have assigned for him, and this has appeared to be his quickest processing time yet to make plays. The two plays above are evidence of this. On both the swing pass and inside run Hitchens reads the play very quickly and comes in to blow it up before the defense can react. Lateral passes are something that Hitchens has struggled with in the past so it is encouraging to see him able to read that play as fast as he did.
A 2014 fourth round draft pick out of Iowa finished the game with seven total tackles and this very impressive quarterback pressure. Blitzing has been something Hitchens has excelled at since his time at Iowa, and he lays a big hit on Tom Brady below to make him hurry the throw.
Despite his past troubles on the field, Hitchens has still been a defensive captain for the Chiefs since his arrival in 2018, so that tells a lot about how much not only the coaching staff but also his fellow teammates feel about him as a player and a leader. With just 37 total tackles on the season, Hitchens won’t win any awards but he has shown drastic improvement.
For a long time, the weak link of the Chiefs team was considered the linebacker position. Now he has a chance to keep elevating a defense that needs it desperately right now, as well as continue to prove people wrong and prove he deserves every bit of his contract.