Jay Feely: Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill among NFL’s best safety tandems

Juan Thornhill, Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Juan Thornhill, Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

During the CBS broadcast between the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets in Week 3, CBS Sports announcers Spero Dedes and Jay Feely took a moment to praise Broncos safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson as both safeties have one interception in the early going of the 2021 season and were both playing well against the Jets.

The CBS telecast put up a graphic called “Jay Feely’s Best Safety Tandem.” The graphic included four tandems, one of them being Kansas City’s Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill.

CBS’ Jay Feely put together his list of the top safety duos, which included Juan Thornhill.

But there is one weird part about that. Thornhill has not been playing much on defense lately. It was certainly noticeable in Week 2 when the Chiefs fell to the Baltimore Ravens as Dan Sorensen had a rough night with several missed tackles.

To be exact, Sorensen missed a league-high nine tackles in the first two weeks of the season. That is three more missed tackles than the next closest defensive player and seven more than anyone on the Chiefs defense through the first two weeks.

According to Pro Football Reference, Thornhill played 95 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 1 against the Browns, playing 56 snaps. But his snap count dropped drastically in Week 2 against the Ravens, playing only 11 snaps, and then playing 19 against the Chargers this past Sunday.

Thornhill played 11 snaps on special teams against the Chargers, which counts for 46 percent of the special teams snaps. He was seen as the holder on kickoffs for Harrison Butker.

It is a valid to question why Thornhill is getting limited snaps on defense while Sorensen is playing more despite struggling. Leading up to Week 3’s match against the Chargers, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said that Thornhill “needs to earn his way back.”

It is unclear what exactly Thornhill needs to do to “earn his way back” considering Sorensen is struggling immensely right now. As pointed out earlier this week on Arrowhead Addict, this is starting to look similar to when Derrick Johnson was getting very limited snaps under Todd Haley in 2009.

Yes, the timing of the graphic from CBS was odd considering the Chiefs’ third game had already finished and Thornhill only played 19 snaps in that game. But these graphics are usually created before game day. Feely was on call for a late afternoon game, so it is also likely that he did not get a chance to follow the Chiefs too closely to the point where he would know about Thornhill not getting enough defensive snaps because he is preparing to announce his game while skimming through all of the other early afternoon games.

But Feely is a national color analyst. When a national analyst is labeling Thornhill as part of the league’s top safety tandems, one who is not getting the snaps to show for it, it just adds more questions about Thornhill’s current situation with the Chiefs.

Next. The best Chiefs players to never win a Super Bowl. dark