Defensive rookies making their mark as Chiefs hit field for OTA practices

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs invested heavily on defense during the year’s draft, picking up five new faces on that side of the ball, and so far head coach Andy Reid like’s what he sees from this year’s freshman class.

Chiefs rookies Breeland Speaks (57) and Derrick Nnadi (91) take part in drills during an OTA practice at the team’s training complex in Kansas City, Mo., on May 22, 2018. (Photo courtesy

“I think they’ve all done well,” Reid said following Thursday’s OTA practice. “I can’t pick one of them out and go this guy is slacking behind, that hasn’t been the case. They seem to be picking it up well and we’ve been happy with the progress.”

Second-round pick Breeland Speaks, who inked his rookie contract Thursday, has made an impression with his effort and work ethic.

“He’s got some natural ability, a good feel for things,” Reid said. “And then he’s coming out working hard. He’s learning.”

Veteran linebacker Justin Houston agrees, saying Speaks has demonstrated a high learning curve as he transitions from a college defensive end to an edge-rushing outside linebacker at the professional level.

“A lot of guys you see in the NFL struggle switching from a DE to an outside linebacker,” Houston said. “But he’s picking up the defense find, he’s looking good in coverage. I think he’s going to help us a lot.”

The Chiefs added depth in the secondary with safety Armani Watts in the fourth round and cornerback Tremon Smith via a sixth-round pick. Watts immediately caught the attention of veteran safety Eric Berry.

“I’ve seen Armani play back at Texas A&M because they played against Tennessee and I was actually at the game, so I’m very excited about that,” Berry said.

Watts turned in an epic performance in front of Berry in the Aggies’ 45-38 double-overtime win during the 2016 season. The junior safety picked up nine tackles and forced a fumble. He sealed the victory for Texas A&M with a game-ending interception.

Smith made an impact during the team’s rookie minicamp and appears primed to earn playing time in the team’s cornerback rotation. He also showed off his speed and agility on special teams as a punt returner during Thursday’s OTA practice.

“I like them, man,” Berry said. “If they’re here, I know they can play. I know they have talent.”

Both of the team’s third-round picks also have made positive impressions. Defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi adds a run-first attitude in the trenches, while versatile linebacker Dorian O’Daniel shows the ability to play multiple positions.

The biggest thing Reid expects from his rookie class is to pick things up quickly, and so far all five defenders have proven that.

“All these young kids are learning, that’s what’s great about this camp and have a chance to do that,” Reid said.

But drawing lasting conclusion from three days of organized team activities cannot be done. Reid emphasizes that all five players have much work remaining during OTAs and training camp to make a difference on the field this fall.

“In these camps, like training camp, you’re not repeating the same play over and over,” Reid said. “Each day you’re adding another load so they can build their resume right there of plays and that’s how we go with it.

Berry said the young players have the right attitude, however.

“Right now, man, we just want to win,” he said. “That’s it.”


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