KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Morris Claiborne officially returned from suspension to join the Chiefs on Wednesday, with the club adding Claiborne to its active roster and releasing offensive lineman Jeff Allen.
How much and how quickly Claiborne joins the defensive lineup, however, remains up in the air. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said the club plans to “tread lightly” in returning Claiborne to action.
“He did everything he possibly could in this last month, between meetings and doing things on his own, but it's not the same as going out there,” Spagnuolo said. “He found that out yesterday. The legs may be there, but the wind takes a little bit of while.”
Head coach Andy Reid on Wednesday said the team planned to evaluate Claiborne during the week of practice before determining a course of action for his return. Spagnuolo concurred with that approach Thursday.
“I think as Coach Reid said, it'll kind of be a day-to-day thing and we'll come up with an answer at the end of the week,” Spagnuolo said.
Claiborne's much-anticipated debut with the Chiefs should provide immediate depth for a thin Chiefs cornerback group. Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward have played nearly every snap thus far, with Kendall Fuller playing 76 percent of snaps as a nickel back. Rookie Rashad Fenton is the only other cornerback on the roster, but he has yet to play a snap.
The three regular corners have all graded out as roughly average through the first games of the season, according to Pro Football Focus. Ward scores highest with a 62.2 defensive grade, which ranks No. 64 among all corners. Fuller ranks No. 68 with a 61.4 grade, followed by Bashaud Breeland at No. 72 with a 60.6 grade.
Overall the Chiefs pass defense ranks 20th in the league allowing 258.8 net passing yards per game. They've allowed 6.5 net yards per attempt, up a tick from the 6.4 yards the defense allowed last season. The club yields an average passer rating of 92.9 to opposing quarterbacks, which stacks up No. 13 in the league.
Claiborne graded out at 62.7 last season by PFF, but the Chiefs believe he can provide immediate relief off the bench while quickly competing for a starting role. Claiborne comes to the team without the benefit of working in an offseason program and a full training camp, but Spagnuolo likes what he sees thus far.
“He's been a pro with everything he has done in the month, the most you can do, whether it's film or taking notes,” Spagnuolo said. “I watch him every day in the meetings. But again, until you have a foundation of reps underneath of you – he got a few in training camp – it's going to be a challenge.”
Spagnuolo defended the job Breeland and Ward have done as the team's starters, while acknowledging excitement at getting Claiborne off the field.
“I think (Breeland and Ward) have done an admirable job,” Spagnuolo said. “There's a lot of things sometimes that you don't see that they do because the ball's not going there. It would be nice to have Mo up and running and functioning at a good level so we have three of them, but we'll see what happens."
The Chiefs cleared roster space for Claiborne by releasing Allen. Allen played in all four games for the club as a sixth lineman and on special teams. He returned to the club in August as a free agent. Allen agreed to be released by the club during the cutdown following the end of the preseason so the Chiefs could place quarterback Chad Henne on injured reserve with a designation to return.
This release, however, appeared to come as a surprise to Allen. “Well didn’t expect this one but it was a pleasure!” Allen posted on Twitter following the news.
Allen's release leaves the Chiefs with 10 offensive linemen on the active roster. Allen and Ryan Hunter served as backups on the game day roster at Detroit. The Chiefs also have rookie Nick interior linemen Allegretti along with tackles Martinas Rankin, acquired via trade from Houston in August, and Greg Senat, claimed off waivers from Baltimore on Sept. 16.