The Kansas City Chiefs secondary added multiple players over the offseason, with several rookie defensive backs and the signing of Justin Reid, providing some fresh faces for the revamped defense.
One of the few familiar faces on the roster is fourth-year safety, Juan Thornhill. At only 26 years old, Thornhill is one of the only veteran holdovers in the defensive secondary at the safety position. He spoke about all of the new additions to the secondary during the opening day of mandatory minicamp press conferences.
“Like you said, we’re loaded,” Thornhill told reporters. “We’ve got a bunch of good guys up there. I love them as people, they’re doing a great job learning the playbook. I remember, when I was a rookie coming in, it was kind of hard to pick up on. I think they’ve been doing a heck of a job competing for the ball and I really like them a lot.”
While there is still a long way to go until the season, Thornhill says the young players are adjusting well to the defense in Kansas City. Even with Steve Spagnuolo expecting some growing pains, this group seems to have come a long way in a short time. Thornhill says they’re earning playing time alongside veterans and look the part, which is always a good sign.
“The defense is really hard,” said Thornhill. “If you’re not studying your playbook, you’re not going to pick up on it. It shows that the guys are in their playbook, they’re taking this thing pretty serious because they’re not making a lot of mistakes out there. They look like veterans out there with the playbook, they’re playing with some of the older guys. And I think they’re doing a really good job with it.”
Without Tyrann Mathieu in the fold, Thornhill is a player that is being looked to as a leader and “old guy” in the locker room. The need to get the young players up to speed and adjust to life in the NFL has become a responsibility that Thornhill appreciates.
“I mean, I love it,” said Thornhill. “Honestly, just being like the oldest guy in the room with a bunch of rookies, I basically can lead the way now. Just being a leader taking on that role. That’s pretty much all I can do.”
The Chiefs added rookies Trent McDuffie, Bryan Cook, Joshua Williams, Jaylen Watson and Nazeeh Johnson to the secondary during April’s draft. Thornhill says the group is already bonding as if they’d all been in the locker room together for many years prior.
“Like each and every week we’re trying to either get to someone’s house and hang out, watch a basketball game or something like that,” said Thornhill. “Just so we can keep that bond. And even here in the locker room, like guys aren’t rushing to get out to get home. We’ll sit in there just like play cards or something like that. And then if you got guys and they just want to hang with each other, you’re gonna play so much better on the field.”
Only time will tell if Thornhill becomes the mentor he appears prepared to be this season. His postseason experience could prove to be critical for a young secondary with big goals in mind for the 2022 NFL season.