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Iron Is Sharpening Iron at Chiefs Training Camp

The 2022 Chiefs defense will look different, but things are slowly beginning to come together.

As the Kansas City Chiefs continue their 2022 training camp in preparation for the regular season, there's one theme that's rising above all: competition.

This competition is evident in many different areas. On the field, players are pitted against each other in an effort to simulate in-game situations. Off the field, those same players spend their time attempting to master the nuances of their units (offense, defense or special teams). On the depth chart, that's where the on- and off-field elements will intersect. Iron is currently sharpening iron and luckily for Kansas City, having such sharp iron to begin with is a great thing. Rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie recently spoke about the team's level of competition following a practice.

“Yeah, I think the competition, especially in the defense is just overall, as a team, has been huge," McDuffie said. "Going against guys like Patrick Mahomes and Offensive Coordinator (Eric Bieniemy) where this offense is a high scoring, high down the field, stretch offense. And as DBs especially, that gives us something to prove because we go out there every day knowing that we are going to compete against the best receivers, against the best quarterback and make plays so it just adds to the confidence and competition to everyday at practice.”

Earlier this offseason, the Chiefs let go of arguably their highest-level competitor on defense. Safety Tyrann Mathieu was the heart and soul of Steve Spagnuolo's unit, yet the team opted to replace him with the much younger Justin Reid once the 25-year-old's contract with the Houston Texans expired. Throughout the offseason, Reid has emerged as a leader on defense and is working in tandem with fellow safety Juan Thornhill to usher in a new-look secondary. When asked about their progress, Thornhill said things are going well. 

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“I think we’re getting there," Thornhill said. "We still have a lot of work to do because each and every day you’re always looking to improve but Justin (Reid), he’s picking up on the playbook really well. I think he’s doing a heck of a job and making a lot of plays on the ball. I feel like we've got a real good secondary unit this year.”

The amount of change the Chiefs are seeing in the defensive backfield is staggering. In addition to the signing of Reid, general manager Brett Veach also brought in safety Deon Bush and drafted rookies Bryan Cook and Nazeeh Johnson. At cornerback, McDuffie is joined by fellow rookies Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson, as well as trade acquisition Lonnie Johnson. The competition is steep, and so is the learning curve. According to McDuffie, though, it's helping. 

“Yeah, I mean we started obviously with our bumps and bruises over springtime and over summer, but I think right now just repetitions have given us so much more confidence," McDuffie said. "I feel like (when) we’re out there on these long drive drills and we’re tired and it feels like nothing’s going our way, to be able to come together in the huddle and kind of form as a group, form as a bond and understand that we’re in this together and that we can go out there right now against the offense, that adds a lot to our confidence and a lot to our defense.”

As the Chiefs continue with training camp and get into their preseason games, keep an eye on the secondary. Some players are managing to stand out more than others — in both good and bad ways — and with three different cut-down days looming for the rest of the month, every trend is one worth watching. One thing is being made perfectly clear about the iron that ends up sticking, though: it'll be sharp.