The Chiefs defense has been relatively thin at the linebacker position for a number of years. Ever since Derrick Johnson’s Achilles injury in 2016, the unit has never been the same. The 2020 season has been no different.
The team made an effort this offseason by drafting Willie Gay Jr. in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Gay possessed speed and raw ability that the Chiefs hadn’t had in a prospect for several years, and optimism was high he could overtake a starting position by the end of the season.
He was given more snaps near the end of the season, and while he definitely made some rookie mistakes, it was clear he was one of the more naturally gifted athletes on the Chiefs roster at the position. His ability to recognize plays and fill his gaps in the running game and cover running backs in the passing game flashed here and there, especially near the end of the season.
Unfortunately, Gay went down in the final game of the season with a high ankle sprain. This is the same injury Edwards-Helaire sustained, and is likely to come back from in a couple weeks, so it’s possible we see Gay play later in the playoffs depending on how things go.
Due to injuries, Darius Harris played 71 snaps against the Chargers and played 54 the week before. It’s tough to say where he will actually line up, as he practiced at Sam before the Chargers game but ultimately ended up taking many snaps at Mike, but regardless there is an expectation he will play quite a bit against the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns are running the ball in an incredibly efficient manner. Harris, along with all the other linebackers will have to step it up to ensure they don’t keep Mahomes and the offense off the field on Sunday.