With the start of the season closing in, considerable attention will soon be on the new group of young men that are on the defensive side of the ball for the Kansas City Chiefs. What they may lack in experience, however, they make up for with their excitement and speed.
"I like them. I like the speed they play with," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "It looks like we have good speed and range."
With four rookies in the secondary alone, there is a good amount of youth throughout the Chiefs' defense this season. These younger players will look to more experienced players such as defensive backs Juan Thornhill, Justin Reid, Rashad Fenton and Deon Bush for the advice and encouragement they may need to succeed this season.
"I just want to be the biggest resource I can for all the guys that come along, [because] we're only going to go as far as we [can together]," said Justin Reid. "No one man is going to win the game. We have to come together as a unit and all play cohesively, play complimentary football and go out and execute. So, if I can help those guys by giving them tips, reminders, and by being a veteran in the room, I try to pass that along."
Elsewhere, one notable rookie on the defense is defensive end George Karlaftis. Karlaftis, who racked up 14 sacks and 29 tackles-for-loss during his time at Purdue, impressed during the preseason and has the potential to have an early impact on the Chiefs' defense.
"You throw on his college tape, he has a motor like no other," said veteran defensive tackle Chris Jones, who went on to explain the advice he's passed along to Karlaftis ahead of Week 1. "I was telling George that I still get butterflies before the first game of the year…I still get the jitters. It's OK – you should have that. It's his first prime-time game, so let it all out. Let your emotions show."
Karlaftis and the Chiefs' defense has a challenging task ahead of them facing off against Arizona Cardinals' quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray is a dynamic quarterback who can punish any defense with his speed and ability to make incredible throws.
"It's about keeping him caroled and somehow getting him down," said Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. "This guy gives you the same headaches that all [quarterbacks] who are a threat to run do, and not just on designed quarterback runs. When he decides to [run], especially on a pass play, he has a unique feel for [making plays], and when he takes off and gets north and south, that can be a problem."
One aspect of having a young team is that it forces the players to communicate more during the game and on each play. Doing so results in better chemistry among the players while also limiting mistakes come game time.
"I think our young guys have done a real good job of picking it up. We've limited it for them. I think they've played fast in all these preseason games," Spagnuolo said. "I'm excited to see them play in this game and see how we are functioning."
This is a young defense, but they will play with something to prove, which in turn will result in many potential plays being made. There might be mistakes, but with the help from the Chiefs' veterans, the hope is that they won't make the same mistake twice.
As for the identity of this year's group, veteran defensive lineman Chris Jones believes their collective youth will help define what this defense can achieve.
"We're gritty," Jones said. "We're hungry and we're gritty. That's what we're all about."