Is Willie Gay really going to make all the difference?
Willie Gay turned heads during the preseason as a player who looked like a real difference maker in the heart of the defense. He’s a second-year player ready to make the leap after the Chiefs allowed him to develop for a full year by playing sparingly and learning behind veterans.
That’s good news because the Chiefs could use a real impact player in the second level, Nick Bolton is promising but limited and Anthony Hitchens can’t do it all by himself. Gay’s arrival back from injury at some point in the near future (perhaps after this next week) from a toe injury could be just what the doctor ordered.
The problem here is with expectations. Can one player coming back really make such a significant difference? Is Gay’s return going to suddenly make the entire front line more effective? Is it going to solve the missed tackles and the poor angles and the lack of gap responsibility up front?
After the Chiefs defense was frustrating in Week 1, it made sense to hold out for returning players to make the difference in Week 2 given that the Chiefs two biggest names on defense (sans Chris Jones) were coming back in safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Frank Clark. After two weeks, the defense looks worse and now Gay is on the way back (not this weekend). At this point, the problems look bigger than a single player can fix.
That’s not to say that Gay won’t make a difference. As he returns, other players see their own roles and expectations change and, as a unit, the team can really get better. These are largely championship level players who have been to the big game before. These are also proven coaches who know what it takes to get back there. For now, we’re left with questions as to why the Chiefs have looked this bad defensively and what can be done about a few specific situations.