Injuries give rookie Leon McQuay opportunity in Chiefs secondary

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs entered the season with perhaps the deepest safety groups in the league but the group finds itself test once again by injury, which gives rookie Leon McQuay III an opportunity to show the potential that made him sixth-round pick for the club in this year’s draft.

Kansas City Chiefs rookies, safety Leon McQuay (No. 34) and wide receiver Jehu Chesson (No. 80) lineup on the field during the club’s rookie minicamp on July 25, 2017 in St. Joseph, Mo. (Photo by Matt Derrick,

“I’m ready,” McQuay said after earning promotion from the team’s practice squad to the active roster. “It’s the same thing I’ve been doing ever day when we get our here in practice. It will be no different. Take what I do in practice to the field when I get on it.”

The team added McQuay to the 53-man roster after placing safety Steven Terrell on season-ending injured reserve. Terrell suffered a dislocated finger during the Week 13 loss to the New York Jets. He turned in a stellar performance Sunday against the Jets including an interception on the team’s final defensive stand. But the finger injury required surgery this week, shutting down Terrell for the year.

That opens up an opportunity for McQuay. The Chiefs selected the 6-foot-2, 185-pound defensive back from USC with the notion of using him as a corner or nickel back before penciling him in at safety.

“I played safety in college,” McQuay said. “I did play nickel but mostly safety. Safety is more natural than corner.”

Terrell’s injury serves as the latest trial for the Chiefs’ safety group. Eric Berry suffered his season-ending Achilles rupture in Week 1. Eric Murray missed the last two games with a high-ankle sprain before Terrell went down. Now the Chiefs turn to McQuay to contribute in dime packages and on special teams,

McQuay said his teammates in the secondary have helped him prepare for this moment.

“(It’s) pretty much everybody in the DB room letting me know how stuff works and how to conduct myself,” McQuay said. “They’ve been giving my off the field stuff and on the field stuff. They’ve been helping me out a lot.”

McQuay is an NFL legacy. His grandfather spent three seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants, New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints as a running back. “All the Way” McQuay also played five seasons in the Canadian Football League.

That pedigree provides McQuay confidence that belies most NFL rookies. He admits training camp served as probably the toughest part of the season, but says he feel comfortable with his rookie campaign thus far.

“I don’t feel like it’s been super hard because I just get out there and do the same thing every day, working my butt off, running around trying to make plays,” McQuay said.

The 23-year-old lights up when talking about his recent promotion, however, acknowledging his potential NFL debut is a big deal to him.

“Right now it’s just like trying to get my mind right,” McQuay said. “I’ve just been practicing hard, I feel like I’m going to be all right.”


Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.