Losing starting safety Bryan Cook is going to be a significant hurdle for the Chiefs going forward, even if the position was one of the most loaded going into the season on either side of the ball.
When Cook went down with an ankle injury against the Packers, it affected things for the Chiefs in a number of ways—all negative. First, it took away an underappreciated playmaker who had really come into his own next to Justin Reid in his first year as a starter. In a secondary in which Trent McDuffie and L'Jarius Sneed earned all the headlines, Cook had become a consistent performer and excellent tackler who helped shut down the opposition.
Cook's injury also removed the quality depth at the position. Mike Edwards is an ideal third safety, a player with an impressive nose for the football who rises up to make key plays in clutch scenarios. Tasked with too much responsibility, however, Edwards can be picked on by opposing schemes to create mismatches. Now until Cook is back, Edwards is the new running mate for Reid.
It's going to be interesting to see how Bryan Cook's injury affects so many areas.
In the short term, with Cook out for an unknown amount of time, the difference at the position will come down to Chamarri Conner's development. The fourth-round rookie is an unknown at this point yet he's in line to earn more time. If he proves he's ready, the Chiefs could find themselves feeling good about safety even with Cook out. In an ideal scenario, Conner would prove he's ready for starter's minutes and allow Edwards to stay where he is.
In the long term, Cook's injury is troublesome for his projections. Remember that Juan Thornhill had an excellent rookie season that was derailed in the final regular season game. While Thornhill never lost his starting spot, he was also never quite the same for the next year or even two seasons after that. Sometimes these injuries create mental hurdles alongside the obvious physical ones and a player loses trust in making the same instinctual cuts as before. Hopefully, that's not true for Cook.
If Cook is out for quite some time, things will look sticky in the offseason. Reid will be coming back as expensive as ever at over $14 million, but if Cook is dicey, then the Chiefs might not feel as comfortable letting Reid go to save some money. Hopefully, Cook returns and shows he can remain an ascending young talent in the secondary while also seeing positive signs from Conner. There are some important games ahead in the short term and personnel decisions in the long term—all hinging on how Cook returns to the field.