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Why Trent McDuffie is the Chiefs Defensive Player of the Year?

McDuffie Island is in full effect!!!

McDuffie CArDS
Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. (70) looks to block Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie (22) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. The Chiefs won 38-10. (Photo by: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)


The Kansas City Chiefs have revamped their defense since 2022. They went after reliable stars in the making via the draft on the defensive side of the ball as soon as they were allowed to. Additions like strong safety Bryan Cook, defensive end George Karlaftis and cornerback Joshua Williams have paid off in a big way for the Chiefs this season. Yes, the Chiefs have starlets in All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones and soon to be All-Pro linebacker Nick Bolton.

However, there is one player who has made the most noise from that group and has also been a big-time playmaker is second-year pro cornerback Trent McDuffie. The Chiefs jumped over the Bills trading with the Patriots at pick No. 21 to select McDuffie of the University of Washington in 2022. As a rookie, McDuffie played in all 11 games (11 starts) and finished the season with 44 tackles, 7 passes defensed, one fumble forced and one sack. Last season, I wrote an article asking the question is McDuffie the future defensive player of the year for the Chiefs?

It looks that way since McDuffie has continued to take his game to another level in 2023. McDuffie has already started 4 games for the Chiefs and he’s become a fine corner rather from the outside or the slot. He has 22 tackles, one pass defensed and 2 fumble forces. McDuffie is working his way to becoming the face of the Chiefs’ defense since being drafted two years ago. The Chiefs defense is currently No. 8 in the NFL in total defense (294.5 yards per game) and tied 5th with the Browns in points allowed per game (15.0), and it’s hard not to see McDuffie as the catalyst on this dominant unit. 

McDuffie is a versatile cornerback, with the ability to play either inside or outside, be effective in press or off coverage, and be left one-on-one. The NFL is more and more becoming a matchup league, and McDuffie is a player who the Chiefs feel comfortable in moving around. A trait that aligns well with McDuffie in Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive scheme is his blitzing ability.

McDuffie has top-shelf movement skills, both in lateral agility and long speed. He also shows off excellent ball skills. He also does well in his assignments. He’s a tenacious run defender for a small guy, competes on every play, and boasts jaw-dropping playmaking ability for example like his two forced fumbles on the year. 

Those skills despite having to be a coverage guy only is what separates the great players from the good ones and McDuffie is playing like an All-Pro this season. He has allowed a 83.5 passer rating overall (38th out of the 121 qualifying corners) with allowing just a 77.5 passer rating from the slot according to PFF which is fourth best in the league among slot corners. 

The other thing to consider is with McDuffie’s presence, the secondary plays as a unit. McDuffie’s duo mate is L’Jarius Sneed, The 6-foot-1, 205 pound speedster has excellent size for the cornerback position, with lanky arms that have proven useful for press coverage and reaching to deflect passes. Yet, he still has the athleticism and fluidity to make up ground or break on a football in a hurry. Sneed has a 72.6 passer rating allowed (20th out of 121).

Like McDuffie, whether playing in the slot, at right corner or on the left, Sneed is a machine at mirroring his counterpart face-to-face, backpedaling smoothly and jumps on routes with ferocity.

Among those characteristics lies an added versatility against different offenses. Aided by depth with Joshua Williams, Jaylen Watson and Nic Jones, the coaching staff can elect to keep McDuffie and Sneed on their traditional left and right sides respectively, or they can mix and match to adapt to any collection of receivers. The former 4th-rounder Williams out of Fayetteville State has been terrific, allowing just a 48.4 passer rating (8th best in the NFL according to PFF for cornerbacks playing atleast 100 snaps) and missing no tackles on the season.

Some may say McDuffie doesn’t have the size you want in a press corner, but he gets the most out of his frame, delivering consistent, forceful jams at the line of scrimmage while staying balanced. His play strength limits him against physical receivers, such as the Jets’ Allen Lazard. He can still stay in man without opening his hips to recover, and can stay stride for stride with whomever he’s covering.

Against Zone, McDuffie possesses an advanced understanding of route concepts and stays disciplined and assignment-sound even when opponents try to fool him. McDuffie anticipates route patterns developing, reading and reacting to the receiver, quarterback, and football to break up passes and make plays. That’s one of the reasons he was named the best zone corner in the 2022 NFL Draft.

McDuffie has worked hard to hone his craft. It’s past time that he was recognized as one of the best corners in the league. The wisdom and savvy that McDuffie has picked up over the last two seasons is phenomenal. He plays like a player with as much experience as a 10 year pro. If he continues to play at this level, McDuffie could be All-Pro and maybe finish as a top 5-10 candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year. The in-your face, competitive attitude he showed as a Huskie is already on display as a Chief.

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