The classic coach principle that all starting jobs are up for grabs in the preseason has almost become an ironic piece of sports lingo. But it’s something Chiefs cornerbacks have been taking very seriously.
Corner hasn’t exactly been the most steady position group for the Chiefs in recent years. With their first preseason game of the season looming, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is still trying to piece together what player suits which scheme.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’m really trying to find out what we have at corner, insofar as what we can do. It will probably dictate what we play coverage-wise,” Spagnuolo said. “We’ve thrown a lot at them so we have a plethora of different coverages. Once we get a feel for what they can and can’t do, we’ll cut them down and settle in.”
Returning is Kendall Fuller, as well as Charvarius Ward, who made a name for himself in the postseason last year when thrust into the spotlight.
Otherwise, from new coaches Dave Merritt and Sam Madison to current starter Bashaud Breeland, it’s a lot of fresh faces in the defensive backs’ room.
“We all are just going out there and competing and the best man wins the job,” Breeland said last Wednesday. “As for everybody, not just speaking for myself, we want the best guys to help this team win and to get us where we need to be.”
Though traditionally regarded as a subpackage role, the Chiefs intend to use first stringer Kendall Fuller more in the nickel corner spot this season.
Fuller, however, isn’t too keen on labeling himself.
“When I went to Virginia Tech, our DB Coach, he always preached to us on learning how to be a DB, not just learning how to play one position. I think that’s one thing that in this system the nickel does,” Fuller said. “You have to do a lot of different things. They ask you to do a lot of different things. Some people would say that you’re just playing one position, but the way you’re playing it is almost as if you’re playing corner, nickel, safety and all of that. It’s been fun.”
Back in 2017 with the Redskins was the last time Fuller primarily covered the slot, a position that requires a versatile skill set.
“Just going out there and just knowing the task at hand playing inside — just the different types of guys you have to guard, the responsibilities that you have in there,” Fuller said. “Really, I’m just focusing in on that and just locking in on it, then just really trying to learn the ins and outs of the defense.”
When the Chiefs’ first unofficial depth chart was released, the cornerback position saw few surprises with Breeland and Fuller listed as starters. But in the modern NFL of spread offenses and high-octane passing attacks, you need more than a pair of corners. Ward, Michael Hunter and D’Montre Wade comprise the second string, offering different athletic profiles and skill sets.
When Breeland went down following a collision in practice last week, Wade was the man chosen to fill in, and Breeland had nothing but good things to say about his replacement.
“He’s a starter as well as I’m a starter, and when his name is called he’s always ready,” Breeland said. “He’s focused, and he’s ready to help this team in any shape or form that he can.”
Additionally, Spagnuolo made complimentary comments towards rookie Mark Fields out of Clemson.