The Chiefs will have the best safety trio in the league in 2023
The Chiefs will enter the 2023 season with a different trio within it’s top backend of the secondary. Juan Thornhill’s departure opened up a key starting role on the defending champions’ defense. The Chiefs safety duo of Justin Reid and Bryan Cook will enter their second consecutive season as teammates. In the free agency world of vast personnel turnover, that type of continuity is rare. The Chiefs have filled that key role with the addition of another Super Bowl champion, Mike Edwards from the Buccaneers.
The presence of all three on the field healthy will keep offensive coordinators up at night scrambling to find a way to get over the top of the triplets in the coverage. With that in mind, I will explain how Chiefs might have the best safety trio in the league in 2023 and what to expect from all three safeties.
Justin Reid developed into a key contributor on the backend of Steve Spagnuolo’s defense winning their second Super Bowl in the Patrick Mahomes era. Reid had seven combined tackles as part of his 74 defensive snaps and five special teams snaps in the Chiefs’ 38–35 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. Now with Thornhill gone, expect Reid to start off at the Base single high safety and then drop in the box especially as a Dime linebacker with Cook and Edwards in the backend on passing downs in 2023.
— TimeoutSPORTS__ (@TimeoutSPORTS3) October 16, 2022
Reid is truly the starting veteran SS who is reliable in both the run and pass game showcasing his very good mental processing ability pre-snap, diagnoses formations, understands down and distance, and communicates assignments to teammates. Has the very good competitive toughness, displays short-term memory and relentless effort, can perform in critical moments of the game against all levels of competition. Must improve on his Off and Press Man coverage vs. bigger TE’s so he doesn’t get bullied regardless of his very good competitive toughness and aggressiveness throughout their route, especially vs. good route-running TE’s that employ subtle arm extension to create operating space at their break point. If the Chiefs are in a cover 2 or 3, Reid is your strong safety with frequent visits in the box in that role.
Justin Reid times this perfectly. He backs out of the box so Stidham thinks he has more time on his max protect throw. Once he gets into his cadence, Reid times it up perfectly and is ready for run or pass. #JacobsEyeInTheSky #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/CUZcx7DKlm
— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) January 10, 2023
New Chiefs free safety Mike Edwards played out his rookie contract with the Buccaneers during the 2022 season, starting 12 games. Edwards’ three pick-sixes since 2020 are the most of any player in the NFL. He scored two of those picks in one game, as Edwards hauled in two passes from Matt Ryan and took them both all the way to the house. He then found the end zone yet again in 2022, picking off New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Jameis Winston and returning it for a 68-yard touchdown.
MIKE EDWARDS HOUSE CALL ‼️ #GoBucs
— NFL (@NFL) September 18, 2022
The one player that I can think of who played at that level of attack the ball and wanting to score every time is Ed Reed, one of the greatest defensive players in NFL and the best safety ever. I’m not saying that Edwards is Ed Reed but his playing style would remind you of him. Edwards uses very good range to make plays at the numbers on money downs who plays well in Off-Man coverage; Spags is known for often utilizing three (or even four) safeties on the field at once, so Edwards’ versatility to play the single high, box and slot should fit nicely within the Chiefs’ scheme.
.@Buccaneers defense is rolling!
Mike Edwards gets the INT in the end zone. #GoBucs
— NFL (@NFL) January 16, 2022
Of course before the start of free agency, the obvious replacement for Thornhill was 2022 second-round pick Bryan Cook. Cook had one tackle in Super Bowl 57. He played in 16 regular season games for the Chiefs in 2022 – mostly as a rotational safety and special teams contributor. He tallied 33 tackles and made one start. He will also be remembered for his game changing tip pass from Tee Higgins into the hands of Joshua Williams that was one of the turning points in the AFC championship game vs the Bengals.
Who else is excited for year 2 of Bryan Cook and Joshua Williams? 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/3koCKVr9Qb
— Brad Henson Productions (@BradHensonPro) February 28, 2023
Cook displays overall solid athletic ability as he has solid foot quickness, agility with his hip movements, and explosiveness when he changes direction while demonstrating good balance. Solid in Off-Man coverage especially playing vs WRs (Tee Higgins), he does a good job of keeping a good pad level, trusting his eyes, displaying solid footwork, and good COD vs Slants, Quick-Outs, Posts, and Go routes. Overall, Cook is a future starting free safety due to his athletic ability, Off-Man coverage, range, and Zone coverage skills. His ball skills, Line of scrimmage skills, run support, open field tackling, and blitzing will get better in year two.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 26, 2022
Overall, the Chiefs have three safeties with a full off-season who can work together building onto their solid performance late into the season that led to their second world title in three seasons. Mike Edwards may be the Chiefs’ best cover safety. His knack for diagnosing plays and his range will allow Spagnuolo to bring Justin Reid closer to the line of scrimmage to take away the short passes to the tight end. While Bryan Cook may not look the part of the dime backer role, his contact stops all forward progress from ball carriers. He can extend his ability as a tackler and coverage defender to the perimeter or deep down the field, so expect the Chiefs to use him and Edwards in the backend, while Reid plays the “dime backer,” spending the majority of his time in the box. Spagnuolo loves to play three-safety defensive sets and move his players around like chess pieces and with Reid, Edwards and Cook, he has the chess pieces.
Follow Chiefs Fan 4 Life on Twitter @ChiefsFan4Lyfe. Check out the rest of my work, including the 3 mid-round options with blue chip potential in the 2023 draft, the search for Mahomes’ primary backup continues and why the Chiefs consider Stetson Bennett in the later-rounds.