Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland is looking like a steal

PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 09: Linebacker Reggie Ragland
PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 09: Linebacker Reggie Ragland /

It was only a month ago that we were wondering if we got a good deal trading for Reggie Ragland, but it’s looking like that trade was a steal so far.

Inside linebacker Reggie Ragland was drafted out of Alabama by the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Due to tearing his ACL before the 2016 and the Bills switching to a 4-3 scheme in the 2017 offseason, he didn’t have a place in the defense anymore. The once defensive player of the year in 2015 for Alabama was being traded before he saw any time on the field.

New General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs Brett Veach decided to make a trade for Ragland trading away a future fourth-round pick for the linebacker. When Ragland came to Kansas City, Veach was making moves to improve the inside linebacker position. While Ragland was upset about being traded, he was getting another opportunity.

"“Not gonna lie, I was upset at first,” Ragland said. “(But) the first thing Veach said when we got here was, ‘We’ve got nothing but time. We want you to get back right. We’re going to take our time with you and when you’re ready, we’re going to put you out there on the field.’ I appreciate that a lot.”"

Ragland was inactive for the first two games of the season and didn’t have any snaps in week 3, but as he got further in his rehab we saw him take snaps for the first time in week 4 against the Washington Redskins. His first few games he looked hesitant and late to recognize plays but as the season has progressed we have seen him become quicker to recognize plays and shoot gaps like a shot out of a cannon.

The patience of Veach and the Chiefs organization is looking to finally pay off. Following the Chiefs bye week, Ragland has been on the field over 40 times per game—including 47 against the New York Giants which was a career high. Ragland stated after the game that he is starting to feel more like himself again.

"“I’m starting to feel like myself,” Ragland said. “I’ve just got to keep building off that, keep watching film.”"

More from Arrowhead Addict

The increased playing time after the bye was likely a result of his performance in the game right before the bye week against the Dallas Cowboys. While he only had two tackles against the Cowboys, we started to see that thumper style that we knew of him from his days at Alabama. He started looking less hesitant and trusting his instincts on where to be to disrupt the offense.

The game against the Cowboys was also when defensive coordinator Bob Sutton decided to make a change on the defense to help stop the run game that was ripping apart the Chiefs defense. He decided to run more packages with two inside linebackers instead of bringing safety Daniel Sorensen down to the box. It worked.

The Chiefs defense has done really well against the run the last three games under this change. They held the third highest rusher of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to only 3.4 yards per carry. They also held Bills running back LeSean McCoy to only 2.2 yards per carry. Both running backs are among the best in the league but were held to short gains against the Chiefs. Something that the Chiefs had really struggled against.

Ragland has led the team in tackles the last two games since the bye week with nine each. Three of those tackles against the Bills were tackles for a loss. One of the biggest issues with the Chiefs defense was that the safeties were leading the team’s tackles each week meaning the last line of defense was the only one getting the job done but after good yardage had been picked up.

We are finally starting to see the steal of the trade for Ragland as he continues to look more like his Alabama days. That hard-hitting, gap-shooting linebacker that disrupts plays in the backfield. Ragland is the kind of linebacker for which the Chiefs have been looking for years to put next to veteran inside linebacker Derrick Johnson.

In the play above, Ragland recognizes the play quickly and shoots the gap to deliver a hard hit on McCoy behind the line of scrimmage. That hard-hitting that we have been missing all season is starting to be seen more and more from Ragland. He doesn’t just wrap the ball carriers up for the tackle but usually lays a hard hit on the running backs. That tends to wear a running back down over the course of the game.

Probably the biggest thing rookies have to learn when coming into the NFL is learning the speed of NFL games. It’s a lot faster than in college even if you play at the top schools.

His play recognition continues to improve and we are seeing more shots in the backfield. Ragland’s speed of recognizing plays at the NFL level is something you can see week to week improving.

This clip above is one of my favorites from the Bills game. The lineman gets to Ragland to perform the second level block but Ragland is able to get his hand on McCoy while holding the blocker in place and take McCoy to the ground. Absolute strength and awareness in this play. Being able to get off second level blockers is something the Chiefs defense has really struggled with but Ragland seems to be getting better at it.

Something I didn’t expect was his ability to cover the running backs in the flat. When watching his film when he played at Alabama, he didn’t look to have that sideline to sideline speed to be able to cover the boundaries. He was more of a middle of the field threat. He only allowed one catch on three targets in the backfield for zero yards against the Giants. While he still doesn’t possess speed that inside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis has, he makes up for it with his awareness of his assignment and taking good angles to make sure they don’t get around him.

The Chiefs official Twitter page put out a small clip on Friday that really got me excited about Ragland. As you probably know, Derrick Thomas who was a linebacker for the Chiefs from 1989 to 1999, also went to Alabama. They posted a clip of Ragland talking about his thoughts on Thomas and how he wants to continue that legacy in Kansas City.

Ragland went on to say that he believes Thomas is the best pass rusher of all time. He wants to show that when linebackers come to Kansas City from Alabama, it’s all worth it.

All in all, I think that Ragland has very high potential moving forward with the Chiefs. If he continues to play like he has the last three games, he could be a major steal and a huge impact on a defense that has struggled against the run for some time now. He also brings more blitz packages to the table for a team that hasn’t had much success blitzing.

I believe the Chiefs should continue developing Pierre-Louis as well to fill Johnson’s role when he is gone and keep Ragland as the thumper. Pierre-Louis has better speed and is able to cover tight ends and running backs better than Ragland can. I still think that Ragland is the linebacker we have been searching for all these years to put next to that other inside linebacker position, and I expect him to bring back some of the hard hits in the backfield that the Chiefs have been missing.