Chiefs to lean on McDuffie after trading Fenton to Falcons

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie waits to participate in a drill during NFL...
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie waits to participate in a drill during NFL football training camp Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)(Charlie Riedel | AP)
Published: Nov. 6, 2022 at 10:55 AM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs showed overwhelming confidence in their group of rookie cornerbacks this week when they traded Rashad Fenton, one of their few veterans, to the Atlanta Falcons for a conditional draft pick.

The move left them with six cornerbacks on their depth chart, four of whom are rookies.

Yet by this point in the season, the duo of Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams have played enough snaps that calling them rookies is a misnomer. The same can’t be said for first-round pick Trent McDuffie, who hurt his hamstring in the season opener in Arizona and has yet to touch the field for another regular-season game.

That will finally change when he suits up against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday night.

“It’s hard to tell (what he’s missed),” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Thursday. “He’s been out there in this three-week window. He’s been practicing — some days have gone good, some days haven’t been so good. He had a good day yesterday. We hope he can go out and be the guy we thought he’d be when we got him.”

McDuffie played well enough in training camp to earn the starting job for Week 1. But he had just one tackle while playing 32 snaps against the Cardinals before leaving with a hamstring injury that ultimately landed him on injured reserve.

READ MORE: Chiefs trade cornerback Rashad Fenton to Falcons for conditional draft pick

“That whole window of time, that’s hard to make up. More growing pains,” Spagnuolo said. “The guys that have been out there have been through them. We’ll have to get him out there and see.”

McDuffie was close to returning the past two games, but the Chiefs opted to wait until after their bye week to activate him. It was a sign of just how highly they think of him that they didn’t want to risk his long-term health, but also signaled just how well Watson and Williams have played over the past two months.

Watson was the AFC defensive player of the week earlier this season after a 99-yard, go-ahead pick-6 in the fourth quarter of a win over the Chargers. And Williams has lately been tasked with defending the opponent’s No. 1 wide receiver.

READ MORE: Chiefs rule Jody Fortson out for Titans game

The other cornerbacks on the roster aren’t much older than the rookies, either.

L’Jarius Sneed, who typically defends the slot and has wreaked havoc on blitzes, is only in his third season. So is Chris Lammons, whom special teams coordinator Dave Toub called one of his best players on punt and kickoff coverage.

Not a whole lot of experience there. But enough to make the Chiefs comfortable dealing Fenton to the Falcons.

“We’re wishing him the best of luck, and we’ve got corners,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We’ve got corners coming back now, so we’ve got depth with some young guys. We’ll continue to utilize them and let them continue to grow.”