With precious few exceptions, it typically takes an NFL defensive lineman 2-3 years to play to his full potential at this level. Allen Bailey, Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard are secure starters in Kansas City’s 30 front. Jones will have opportunities to help bolster the pass rush on obvious passing downs, but he’ll need coaching to become a consistent run defender in this league. He has the pure athleticism to be an immediate contributor, but likely only in subpackages this season. Despite being the top pick in Kansas City’s draft class in the spring, Jones may have the longest odds to becoming the team’s top rookie in 2016.
Fortunately for Russell, he’ll spend his 2016 season in the hands of arguably the team’s two best position coaches in Emmitt Thomas (defensive backs coach) and Al Harris, Jr. (assistant secondary/defensive assistant). It was their expertise, a year ago, which helped mold Peters into the league’s top defensive rookie.
Third-year man Phillip Gaines is returning from the ACL tear that ended his 2015 campaign prematurely. That should afford Russell a few more first team reps than his counterparts. If Gaines isn’t healthy, Russell is a viable candidate for the Mack Lee Hill Award, but he’ll have his work cut out for him. If he is awarded the job, teams will come after him with Peters having earned a reputation as a ball-hawking cornerback who produced one turnover after another last year.
Next: Two more options...