The surprise isn’t that the Chiefs have tried to minimize the number of defensive snaps that inside linebacker Reggie Ragland has seen on the field in passing situations. The surprise comes in the fact that Terrance Smith played 53 snaps — more than twice as many as Ragland (24) — in Sunday’s win against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Arrowhead Stadium.
Ragland, who the Chiefs acquired in August of 2017, has struggled in pass coverage this season. His strength is as a downhill run stuffer, and the Chiefs ideally want him on the field in base defense and/or on first and second downs when the threat of the run is significant.
Inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens, signed this offseason, came aboard as the three-down inside linebacker the Chiefs want on the field in base defense as well as most sub packages. Smith’s role has been to play beside Hitchens on passing downs.
“He gets in in nickel situations teams are playing,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Smith. “This team played quite a bit of that. I think Reggie actually has been doing better the more he plays.
“Terrance does a good job with the pass game. He’s kind of a tweener linebacker, kind of a strong safety-linebacker. He’s not the biggest linebacker, and he’s probably too big to play safety. But he fits into that role pretty good.”
Smith’s role as a pass coverage linebacker appears similar to how the Chiefs have indicated they’d envisioned using rookie linebacker Dorian O’Daniel.
Ragland’s most-extensive playing time this season came against the San Francisco 49ers (49 snaps), who used a fullback on the field for 53 snaps.
Ragland’s 24 snaps against the Jaguars on Sunday were his fewest of the season, but he was on the field almost an identical percentage as he was against Pittsburgh. Ragland played 25 defensive snaps (30 percent) against Pittsburgh, who threw 60 pass attempts. He played 29 percent of the snaps against the Jaguars, who threw 61 pass attempts.
Ragland played 26 snaps against the Broncos, but the Broncos had just 60 offensive snaps and Ragland played 43 percent of those snaps.
The Broncos played the majority of that game from ahead, while both Pittsburgh and Jacksonville trailed by more than 20 points during those games.
Speaking of rookies: Chiefs second-round draft pick Breeland Speaks, the team’s top pick this past spring, played a season-high 56 snaps at outside linebacker on Sunday.
The converted defensive lineman came had been rotating in along with Tanoh Kpassagnon this season, but with starters Justin Houston (hamstring) and Dee Ford (groin) dealing with injuries and Ford eventually earning a disqualification for a taunting penalty (his second personal foul of the game), Speaks had to play a larger role against the Jaguars. He collected a tackled and a fumble recovery after Ford’s sack and forced fumble in the second quarter.
“Breeland was about two inches away from two sack there, so he’s getting better as we go,” Reid said. “He’s a young guy that plays hard. Tanoh just keeps improving and improving. He kind of tweaked his ankle a little bit early. For him to push through and play the way he did, I thought he did a nice job with it.”
Reid said Chiefs general manager Brett Veach was exploring options to add depth at the outside linebacker position. Houston, Ford, Speaks and Kpassagnon are the only four options at the position currently.
What injury?: Wide receiver Sammy Watkins left last Monday night’s game in Denver with a hamstring injury that had limited his participation in practice during the short week leading up to the Jaguars game.
Watkins played 60 snaps — just four fewer than Tyreek Hill — on Sunday, and he had a team-high eight targets in Sunday’s win. Watkins hauled in six catches for 78 yards.
Devey on deck: Reid acknowledged that Jordan Devey would be the first candidate the staff would look at to fill in for Laurent Duvernay-Tardif at right guard. Duvernay-Tardif suffered a fractured fibula Sunday. Devey played six offensive snaps on Sunday. Coming into that game, he’d played just four offensive snaps this season and 23 on special teams.
Offensive lineman Andrew Wylie appeared on the first unofficial depth chart of the regular season as the projected starter at left guard, but he’s played just one snap on offense through the first five games.
Forcing his way into the mix: Rookie defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi not only made his first-career start on Sunday, but he got more playing time than Xavier Williams for the first time this season. Nnadi played nearly half of the Chiefs snaps on defense (40 of 83), and he made four tackles.
Williams, who the Chiefs signed in March, played 23 snaps and had three tackles, including his first sack of the season.
Liking Lucas: Injuries to Eric Murray and Armani Watts caused Jordan Lucas to play more than half the defensive snaps on Sunday. Lucas, who also played 15 special teams snaps, hadn’t played a defensive snap in the first four games. The Chiefs acquired Lucas via trade on Aug. 31 after they’d wrapped up the preseason.
Lucas finished Sunday’s game with six tackles, one interception and one special teams tackle.