Chiefs roster evaluation: Tyrann Matheiu, Juan Thornhill emerge as top safety duo
What we learned
Similar to the rest of the defense, we learned to be a little more patient earlier in the season. It took some time to get going, but when it mattered, the defense was better than expected coming into 2019.
Last offseason, the discussion was that we don’t need a good defense, just one that can make a stop or two when needed. Kansas City got that and more from their entire defense, but especially the safety duo of Mathieu and Thornhill. Not only were they able to get stops, but the defense also carried the offense multiple times to wins last season.
Mathieu saw more and more time in the nickel alignment with Fuller moving back to safety. While teams tried to take advantage of that, Mathieu played better than many cornerbacks in the league when faced with man coverage.
Early in the season, we saw flashes of rookie mistakes from Thornhill that gradually disappeared. His development throughout his first season was impressive. It only brings optimism of what could be in store for the young safety. Of course, he will likely have some growing pains to start 2020 as he will spend most of the offseason rehabilitating the torn ACL. It doesn’t help that it occurred at the end of the season. The team will likely limit him during the offseason programs and preseason workouts.
While the safety position has been devalued in recent years across the NFL, the Chiefs starting duo proved just how much help having two good safeties can support an entire defense. Masking weaknesses elsewhere and the ability to play numerous roles proved a significant value for Spagnuolo. The cornerbacks improved in 2019, but how much of that was because they had reliable help from the safeties?