The Official Website Of Chiefs Focus

Kansas City Chiefs 2023 Preview – The Secondary

The 2023 Previews are back… We look at the Secondary.

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie is seen before Super Bowl 57, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (Photo by: Steve Luciano / The Associated Press)

In 2023, the Chiefs can have one of the premier passing defenses in the NFL. While they did achieve success by winning their second Super Bowl championship, they also had problems on defense despite finishing 11th in 2022 from 27th from 2021, allowing one of the league-worst ratios of 33 passing touchdowns to only 11 interceptions. They could’ve elected to solve the problem through free agent or trade additions at cornerback. They could’ve lured three-time All-Pro Jalen Ramsey from the Los Angeles Rams but he was traded to the Dolphins. 

Chiefs GM Brett Veach, meanwhile, took a different approach with the corners, letting Juan Thornhill leave and adding 27-year-old veteran Mike Edwards ($3M per year). They’re also going to lean on L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie to greater success, as the Chiefs expect McDuffie will establish himself as one of the top players at the position. All together, Chiefs cornerbacks if you include Chamarri Conner in the slot will earn just over $6.9M this season – one of the lowest figures in the NFL and more than the Bengals pay Chidobe Awuzie, their highest-paid corner. The budget approach will be wildly successful, and don’t be surprised if that leads the Chiefs with the one of the best secondaries in the NFL in 2023 and will explain why each player is important.


Mike Edwards (#21)  projects as a pure free safety who can excel in single- or two- high coverage. Edwards is highly intelligent and has great route recognition, awareness, and anticipation. While free safety is a projection for him, his skills, intelligence, athleticism, and playmaking ability indicate he should be a quality starter there. Free safety isn’t usually a plug-and-play position but Edwards could make an immediate impact playing the snaps left by Thornhill at single high.

Justin Reid (#20) is already a very good all around safety but what sets him apart his otherworldly production as a pass defender, run defender and pass rusher. In 74 career games he has 13 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 7 interceptions, 30 passes defended, and 3 sacks. Reid is a tremendous athlete (9.6 RAS score) who is blazing fast and bursts downhill that leads to big hits. He can take good angles and is an exceptional tackler and run defender. Expect a big year from Reid as the Chiefs leader in the defensive back room.

Bryan Cook (#6) showed in his rookie season that he’s a smart and tough free safety who is best in two-high but has the range for single high. Cook in year 2 should have a better understanding of route anticipation as he only started for a year at Cincinnati. Cook is a sound tackler and strong run defender who can also play in the box. Since the Chiefs have a two-high zone scheme, his ball hawking and intelligence in coverage should earn him a starting or be the rotational 3rd safety if he can’t beat out newly signed Mike Edwards.

Deon Bush (#26) is a big hitter and underrated pass defender (3 career picks in the NFL) who can come up to provide run support and punish receivers cutting across the middle of the field. He is another player, in a worst case scenario, who will be featured on special teams to start 2023 where he should  continue to impress coaches enough to think about giving him more defensive snaps.

Rookie Chamarri Conner (#27) could be a big nickel safety for the Chiefs. Conner was a versatile safety at Virginia Tech; a do-it-all player. He played in-the-box, two-high, single-high and slot corner. He rotated regularly, and blitzed from deep, the box and the line-of-scrimmage. He was an excellent open-field tackler; taking great angles on the ball-carrier, tracking the near side hip, wrapping up and driving his man. His ability in coverage was good enough for Spagnuolo to tout him as a potential slot cornerback.

All the above factors lead to Conner being a perfect candidate for the big nickel position. He can matchup on receivers, particularly bigger body types. He is also great at playing the run. He will be tough competition for Nazeeh Johnson (#13), and he further improves the safety depth if Reid or Edwards suffers injury or leaves in free agency in 2023. Johnson is already an excellent special teamer. He has exceptional speed, 4.37 40, but he is a developmental safety who might never be more than a very good special teamer.


L’Jarius Sneed (#38) is a versatile corner who has the size to play outside, but got a lot of reps in the slot for the Chiefs. His foot quickness and hip fluidity mean he can match up on slot receivers, and he also has the size to defend bigger receivers who move into the slot. He embraces physicality and punishes receivers during routes and trying to make a catch. He is a natural ball-hawk especially in press-man but he gambles too much in zone coverage and falls for fakes. He is overly aggressive which also bleeds into his run defense where he will take bad angles and tackle wildly. If he can play with more discipline and under control he has the speed (4.37 40), size (192 pounds), and good length (31” arms), to play more reps as an outside press corner or a safety.

Trent McDuffie (#22) enters year 2 with bigger expectations than his rookie season. After missing just 6 games in 2022, he proved that he can cover outside or slot receivers, despite his lack of arm length. McDuffie is one of the best corners in run support. Some might think McDuffie doesn’t have the elite traits to ever be more than a very good second corner and for a zone corner has surprisingly little ball skills. McDuffie has the play strength to impede even big receivers at the line of scrimmage in press. He even matched up at times against tight ends, such as Austin Hooper. He proved why he was the best zone corner in the 2022 draft class, and he shows great burst reacting to action in front of him. Playing him in the slot, reminds me a little of All-Pro slot Chris Harris Jr., who was a similar undersized, effective slot corner at the University of Kansas and going undrafted to the Broncos.

Jaylen Watson (#35) standing at 6’2” and long, with the ideal frame for press. Watson showed for a former 7th rounder he has very good change of direction skills to mirror receivers from off man coverage, and he explodes attacking action in front of him. Watson also displayed terrific hands for the interception, and that shows up on tape when he leaps to attack the ball at the catch point. He got better as a run defender as the 2022 season progressed. If he can play with more discipline and clean up his coverage mental errors, he has the traits to be one of the best corners in the NFL.

Joshua Williams (#2) dominated down the stretch in 2022. He’s tall (6’3”) and long (32.875” arms) with average speed (4.53 40). His change-of-direction is impacted by his footwork, which is often sloppy. He has eye discipline issues and needs to improve his route awareness and recognition in zone. And while he tries to engage in run support, his angles are bad and his tackling form needs work. He is a very good backup and some might not ever see him more than a low end starting CB2. However, if the Chiefs go with a man-slot corner they could consider Williams if they can get past his limited athleticism and physical traits.

Rookie Nic Jones (#31) fits best in a press-man or press-zone scheme. Jones is overly aggressive and is prone to grabbing and/or getting lost in coverage. He simply has too many coverage busts on tape. Jones is tough and physical and a good run defender. He, like Watson, if he can play with more discipline, cut down on the mental errors, and not take the cheese, he should be a reliable backup. With his physicality, he profiles well to special teams.

Final Thoughs?

The Chiefs secondary is looking more like a perfectly assembled squad. Each player brings a specific skill-set to the unit that, when assembled, is a force on the football field. Sneed and McDuffie are two, physical cornerbacks on the outside with the skill set to play the slot who can defend vertical routes from press-man alignment thanks to their quick head-turns and recognition of routes.

Reid is the intimidating presence in the secondary, comfortable in zone coverage in Spagnuolo’s Cover 2 scheme and willing to play downfield against the run or pass. Finally, newly signed Edwards adds a level of security to the ten players in front of him. He is going to eliminate the middle of the field and provide assistance from sideline-to-sideline. Together, this is a formidable group that seemingly has no holes.

Follow @ChiefsFan4Lyfe on Twitter.

Want more Chiefs Focus? Subscribe to our podcasts, follow us on Twitter, follow us on Instagram, like us on Facebook or catch us at our YouTube channel.



Share this:


%d bloggers like this: