Second-Year Jump: How Will Safety Juan Thornhill Respond After His Injury?

Mark Van Sickle

Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill, who was taken in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, became a high-impact player for the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense in his rookie campaign. Teammate and fellow safety Tyrann Mathieu took Thornhill under his wing and, by the end of the season, they were one of the best safety duos in the NFL. Unfortunately, a season-ending injury in Week 17 prevented Thornhill from making an appearance in the Chiefs' Super Bowl-winning playoff run.

Thornhill had a fantastic rookie season. His season ended with 56 total tackles, five passes defended and three interceptions. All of the hard work landed him on the Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Teams. So where can he go from there?

With an ACL surgery occurring in mid-January, there are some critics who are skeptical Thornhill will be back by Week 1 of the 2020 season. Typically these injuries take anywhere from six to nine months to fully recover from, so there is a chance he could land on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list at the start of the season. 

If they don’t activate him off the PUP list before Week 1, he wouldn’t be eligible to return to game action until Week 7. Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach mentioned he believes Thornhill will be ready to go before the regular season kicks off.

Assume he is healthy and ready to go for the entire season. What kind of jump forward can we anticipate from Thornhill? For someone of Thornhill’s caliber, it isn’t out of the question to see at least a 75% production increase in year two. He would be starting from day one, so seeing a bump in total tackles to around 80, passes defended jumping up to 10, and interceptions up to five doesn’t seem far-fetched. From a pure numbers standpoint, this would also place him squarely in the conversation as a top-10 safety in the league.

On social media, Thornhill has vocalized his desire to come back even stronger and more focused in 2020. If his words match his actions, not only will Thornhill be in line for another big step forward, but the Chiefs' defense as a whole will move in a positive direction in the upcoming season.

For Mark Van Sickle's first analysis on the "Second-Year Jump" pertaining to Mecole Hardman, click here.

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