Chiefs fans were riding the wave of being undefeated and defeating a tough division rival Los Angeles Chargers When the unfortunate and shocking news of linebacker Willie Gay’s four-game suspension hit the airwaves (more on that here,
Gay’s suspension now leaves a huge hole in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s unit. His energy, pace, athleticism and range will be difficult to replace, but let’s see how the Chiefs can turn Gay’s defensive output over the next four games.
The Chiefs knocked out rookie Leo Chenal from Wisconsin in the third round of this year’s draft. He is currently starting out as a SAM linebacker in Chiefs Base Defense. Coming into the draft, Chenal was known for his willingness to take blocks and attack the ball carrier, which helps him excel in run defense. While not a total liability in the passing game, it can be a long task asking him to cover quick tight ends or run backs. Chanel seems like a better option to stay on the SAM spot, as moving him to the weaker side could hurt him.
Darius Harris is going into his third year as the Chiefs after being signed as a free agent out of Middle Tennessee after the 2019 draft. He’s the guy I think the Chiefs turn to first to fill the Gay void in the next four games. Coming out of college, he was highly regarded for his versatility of playing every linebacker position in the 4-3 plan. After his signing, General Manager Brett Veitch went on record,
,[Harris] There’s a guy you want to see,” Veitch said. “And maybe it’s not this year, but we think he has a lot of talent going forward. He could be the person who not only makes the roster but starts the day one. We’re excited about that; it is us [also] excited about the speed that [Gary] Johnson brings. But those are the two people we liked. Since we didn’t draft any linebackers, we were definitely on the offensive. If you go back to this Harris kid, it was a kid that, if not a shoulder problem, gets drafted. ,
Harris’s playing pace may be the only question as to how productive he can be, but I think the chiefs will allow him to find out.
Elijah Lee is the sixth-year veteran to have been signed to a one-year deal by the Chiefs this past off-season, after spending his last two seasons with the West Indies. Cleveland Browns, Lee is a local boy out of Blue Springs High School and played his college ball here Kansas State,
Lee has made only six starts in his six-year career. He had a solid precision on defense and special teams, leading most to believe that he would start on Chanel. Lee has recorded eight defensive photos this season, and I don’t think that trend has changed much with the gay suspension.
Jack Cochran, a rookie out of South Dakota, is an interesting player to consider. Cochrane was signed to the Chiefs after the 2022 draft and immediately began standing in the team’s minicamp. Cochrane did not make the Chiefs’ initial 53-man roster, but was quickly included in the practice squad. Chief on September 13 Activate him in the active roster Much to the surprise of many, that may indicate that the Chiefs knew Gaye’s suspension was coming to an end.
Cochrane primarily played the role of middle linebacker in South Dakota, but also played some outside linebackers as well. Spagnuolo used Gay in several coverage situations in the first two games, and is one of Cochrane’s strong areas. He has the fluent hips for a linebacker and the athleticism to cover a tight end. With six career interceptions and 16 career passes in college, he could be a good substitute for Gay in clear pass situations.
There is no doubt that Gay’s lack will be felt on the defence. But the Chiefs have some depth that can reduce the blow in the next four games. Although not a linebacker, rookie safety Brian Cook will also be a player who can increase his snaps in some sub-packs to help fill the void.
It will be interesting to see which direction Spagnuolo goes in some situations. Whatever the temporary solution, Chief and his fans will be eagerly awaiting Gaye’s return.
Who do you think is best suited to replace the defensive production of Willie Gay Jr.?
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