What would a breakout season for Chiefs LB Willie Gay Jr. look like in 2021?
Kansas City Chiefs fans have long looked for enhancements at the linebacker position even prior to Derrick Johnson left the franchise in 2018.
For whatever factor, discovering consistency at the position has actually been a battle for Kansas City over current years. When the group included POUND Willie Gay Jr. in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL draft, there was a great deal of optimism that the tides had actually moved for the group. He had a standout offseason in spite of very little on-field chances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The novice eventually wouldn’t vanquish Damien Wilson, the incumbent starter at the SAM linebacker area in base and the DOLLAR linebacker area in sub-packages. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the training personnel would offer the veteran the advantage of the doubt after the group’s very first Super Bowl win in 50 seasons. However this upcoming season, it’s an entire various story for Gay.
All indications indicate the second-year linebacker getting a chance to begin together with Anthony Hitchens in base and sub-packages. In spite of late-season injuries, Gay completed his novice season strong, contributing on defense and unique groups. He tape-recorded 39 overall takes on, 3 takes on for loss, one sack, 3 passes safeguarded and one required fumble on the year.
What would a breakout season in fact appear like for the Chiefs’ young linebacker? Initially, he’ll require more chance in the method of snaps. Despite appearing in all 16 regular-season games in 2020, starting in eight of them, Gay only played 25% of the Chiefs’ total defensive snaps on the year. Compare that against Wilson, who played nearly 50% of the defensive snaps for Kansas City in 2020 and nearly 65% during the Super Bowl-winning 2019 season.
Beyond the snaps, obviously, the production needs to match for Gay’s year to be considered a breakout. Would matching Wilson’s best season in Kansas City qualify as a breakout? Probably not. Would a 100-tackle season get the job done? It’d be a start considering only 42 players in the NFL had 100 or more combined tackles last season. A good baseline might be what Chargers rookie Kenneth Murray was able to accomplish in 2020.
Last season, Murray posted 107 combined tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack and three passes defended. He did so while starting all 16 games for Los Angeles. If Gay can match or exceed those numbers in his second year, he’ll be looking good.
Gay also needs to pass the eye test if he’s to notch what is considered a breakout season. One of the most glaring deficiencies in Kansas City has been a lack of speed and coverage ability at the linebacker position. He needs to play fast, make big hits and cover ground in the passing game if he’s to pass the eye test.
We know that Gay’s goal for this offseason is to improve little by little each and every day. Unlike his rookie season, he’s mastered the playbook and knows his assignments. Now he can really focus on improving his technique, which will go a long method towards assisting his breakout in 2021.
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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.