With Eric Berry unable to shake his injuries and return to form in 2018, it left the safety position short on good coverage options. The Chiefs drafted Armani Watts, but he battled injuries and was a complete non-factor for most of his rookie season. That left the bulk of the snaps to the quartet of Parker, Murray, Sorensen, and Lucas. That group combined for a 64.2 PFF coverage grade and allowed a quarterback rating of 107.9 when the safeties were targeted which was 28th in the NFL last season.
I truly believe that the additions of veteran Tyrann Mathieu and rookie Juan Thornhill could drastically improve those coverage numbers in 2019. Mathieu had over 700 coverage snaps last season with a PFF coverage grade of 70.6. That’s several points higher than any of KC’s safeties last season. Juan Thornhill’s numbers (while from the college level) were even better. He had an 87.0 coverage grade on 390 coverage snaps his senior season. His six interceptions were more than the combined total of Parker, Murray, Sorensen, and Lucas for the Chiefs last season. Obviously there’s likely to be a drop in those numbers as Thornhill adjusts to life in the NFL, but the fact that he’s been that strong is still a huge addition for a defense that had terrible coverage from the safety position last season.
With an offense led by Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs don’t have to have elite pass coverage in order to win games. They just need it to not be awful like it was at times last season. As the numbers have shown, the spots where K.C.’s coverage was truly awful last season was at safety and linebacker and there are very strong reasons to believe that those two spots will be much better in 2019.
If you’re still not sold, I’ll leave you with one last set of numbers. Of the 30 touchdown passes allowed by the Chiefs last season, 15 of them were allowed by the safeties and off-ball linebackers which should be noticeably upgraded this season. Another 10 of them were allowed by the cornerback duo of Nelson and Scandrick who are no longer with the team. That’s 25 of the 30 touchdowns allowed last season. Throw in an entire new defensive coaching staff and scheme and the Chiefs coverage in 2019 is going to be completely different than it was last season
There is every reason to believe that it will be much improved even if they don’t add a big time cornerback before the season arrives.
[Author’s note: A special thanks to Sam who runs the @PFF_Chiefs Twitter account for providing me with some of the Pro Football Focus numbers in this piece.]