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Chiefs' Youngest Contributors No Longer Playing Like Rookies

Numerous rookies stepped up to make big plays in last Saturday’s victory

Four months ago, one of the primary question marks for many fans surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs was the number of rookies who would soon be playing major roles for the six-time defending AFC West champions. Those concerns were understandable, but now fifteen games into the campaign, those worries have been replaced with palpable excitement.  

"We don't have rookies anymore," said Chiefs' safety Justin Reid. "They've had enough experience. They've had enough games under their belt. They're first-year players still, but that title of 'rookie' – we really want to throw that out the window because of the experience [they have], the snaps they have under their belt and the pelts they have on the wall."

The Chiefs' rookie class has certainly stepped up in some big moments of late, notably in last week's victory over Seattle. Rookie defensive end George Karlaftis, for example, has been playing with the skill of a veteran in recent weeks. He has four sacks in his last five games, and his seven batted passes on the season rank second among all defensive linemen. Additionally, Karlaftis has 42 pressures this year – the second-most among all rookies.

Karlaftis has clearly improved as the season has gone on, as evidenced by his production – which now includes 4.5 sacks on the season – and the same is also true for several other members of the Chiefs' rookie class.

"There is no better teacher than experience," said Reid. "Since they've gotten to be on the same field as [great opponents], it gives them the confidence to say, 'I belong here, I've lined up with the best of the best, and I've held my own.' That type of confidence is going to come through for us when we need it to."

Another rookie who has stepped up recently is safety Bryan Cook, who made a massive fourth-down tackle in the open field last week. The tackle – which was a great example of an athlete playing like he belongs – was one of the biggest plays from a day full of defensive highlights.

"I'm excited for Bryan. He's a good tackler and a cerebral guy," said Reid. "He really takes advantage of his opportunities when he gets on the field."

Karlaftis and Cook are just two members of a rookie class full of rising standouts, and they'll look to collectively continue that upward progression in Sunday's game against Denver. The matchup is critical for Kansas City as it aims to keep pace for the top record in the AFC, but fans should have no doubt that the Chiefs' rookies will be ready for that challenge.

As the regular season nears its end and the playoffs inch closer and closer, the Chiefs' rookies are growing more and more into the skilled and capable players that the front office and coaching staff knew that they could be. The performance of this rookie class is becoming something to look forward to each and every week, as well as in seasons to come.