Chiefs’ Juan Thornhill seeks to fill Tyrann Mathieu’s void

The prevailing story was that Kansas City Chiefs signed Justin Reed far from Texans from Houston in a free agency when they decided to switch from triple All-Pro safety Tyrant Mathieu.

It was a one-on-one shift, nice and tidy.

The reality is that Mathieu’s replacement may have already been on the team in the form of Juan Thornhill, who was a new and out-of-line starter for the first three seasons in the league. With the departure of Mathieu and Dan Sorensen as free agents, Thornhill is the only one on the list with a lot of experience in defending coordinator Steve Spaniello.

Thornhill also has a more flexible set of skills than Reed, who is the typical defender with hard kicks, with the unique ability not to fall into the cover, but also to hit the quarterback and enter the field against running.

“I love him for being the oldest person in the rookie room,” Thornhill, 26, said after a hot workout during a three-day mandatory mini-camp in Kansas City. “I have to lead the way, to take on this role.”

He himself had a great role model in Mathieu, who arrived in Kansas City at about the same time as Thornhill was chosen.

For the past three years, Thornhill has had the best possible spot to watch Mathieu not only spin his craft on the field, but also demonstrate off-field leadership, which has made him invaluable. Mathieu was the leader of the defense, the one who made the players take the right position in defense and gathered them in his house for barbecues on the weekends.

Mathieu, who has experience with two torn ACLs, also helped Thornhill cope with a devastating knee injury that ended his rookie season, and for a time diverted what was a promising start to his career.

“I was really quiet when he was here because I knew he was the type of person to be a leader and I would just follow in his footsteps,” Thornhill said. “Now is my time to take on this role and put everyone in order.”

This includes Brian Cook, selected in the second round of Cincinnati, who could become a crucial part of the defense.

“This is definitely a role I want to take on,” Thornhill said. “I want the boys to have fun. Sometimes when you play this game, it may seem like you’re putting a lot of pressure on you, but we don’t want that pressure. We just want to go out there and have a lot of fun and enjoy the game. That’s when you play a lot of games, when you feel comfortable and cohesive on the field. “

Make no mistake: This is a great year for Thornhill.

He started all 16 games as a rookie who has just left Virginia, making 58 hits with three interceptions and a touchdown. But the injury persisted in Year 2, when he started just 8 of 16 games and watched his playing time dwindle, and Thornhill remained to fight for his place in the main defense, aimed at last season.

He started 12 of 17 matches with a career-high 64 rebounds, which put him in a decisive contract year.

Steelers reportedly set the security market earlier Wednesday when they negotiated with Minka Fitzpatrick for a multi-year deal worth $ 73.6 million, which includes a guaranteed $ 36 million. This follows major contracts that have been awarded to Jamal Adams of Seattle, Marcus Williams of Baltimore and Justin Simmons of AFC rival Denver.

“I have high expectations. It’s that simple,” Thornhill said. “I plan to play my best football so far – at the top of my game. I’m looking forward to the All-Pro season. I’m saying that right now.”

In other news, Chiefs said defender Frank Clark was released from training for the second day in a row while rookies Trent McDuffie and Joshua Williams were out of work after leaving with coaches on Tuesday.

Others who have not coached include the left-handed Orlando Brown Jr., who has not yet signed his franchise bid and is not required to report; going back to Jericho McKinnon, who was signed just this week; reserve offensive line Prince Tega Vanogoho; defensive end Malik Hering; and right-handed Lucas Niang, who is still rehabilitating a knee injury.

Chiefs coach Andy Reed is expected to discuss a mini-camp after Thursday’s final workout, after which Chiefs will take a break for the rest of the summer before reporting in late July at his training camp at Western State University in Missouri.

Report from the Associated Press

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