Moving on to the cornerbacks:
2019 Cornerbacks: Charvarius Ward, Rashad Fenton, Bashaud Breeland, Alex Brown, Morris Claiborne.
Ward had a really solid 2019. He was rocky early in the season, but after week 6-7 Ward really stepped it up. He was doing a lot better tracking the ball in the air, and setting a tone in man coverage. Yes, the competition definitely was worse, but Ward still did step up against guys like Stefon Diggs and Allen Robinson. His strengths were as a press cornerback, where he uses his length and long speed to take away anything vertically. He was able to play more outside leverage to take away everything vertical, with the safeties robbing the middle of the field. Ward really excelled around the red zone, where the space he had to cover was restricted and he was able to defend fade routes really well.
Ward’s main issue is when he has to change direction to the middle of the field. His change of direction still isn’t fantastic, which we saw in the Super Bowl. The long dig and post routes were something Ward really struggled to defend. He’s fine if he just gets to run, but when he has to flip his hips and run laterally, Ward can struggle. If he can, he needs to get better at flipping his hips and running with these dig routes. It’s hard when you don’t have a linebacker to help you in zone, but teams are going to attack him there, especially if the Chiefs play a lot of 2 deep safeties until Juan Thornhill comes back healthy.
I think Ward has a path of development that’s still high. I do think his ’19 stats are a little bit overblown, but he still had a darn good year. He plays the ball well, he doesn’t get beat vertically much, and his length gives bigger receivers a lot of issues. I don’t think he’ll ever become a full-time CB1, but as a 2nd or 3rd CB, I’m very comfortable with Ward.
Status: Keep him, offer contract extension
Breeland had an up-and-down 2019. After a really good 4 week stretch to start the season, he fell off until about week 10, when he started to round back into form. Breeland played his best in the Super Bowl, with an INT and a few TFLs on some screens. This postseason he earned himself a lot of money. Breeland does really well in press coverage, but is also good in zone. Kansas City played a lot of Cover 6, or Match coverage this year. Breeland did a really good job in that coverage, being able to use his veteran savvy to pull down a couple of interceptions.
The main thing Breeland struggles with is grabbing. If he gets beat initially, he’ll grab. Breeland had 5 holding penalties in one game against the Colts. While Breeland is still young enough to where he can cover most people, the issue becomes if he gets older and his speed declines. In that case, Breeland may become even more grabby. I don’t hate the idea of bringing Breeland back. He fits exactly what Spagnuolo wants out of a corner. A long, physical corner who plays well in run support has always been what Spags prefers. I just think he prices himself out of Kansas City. Unless he wants to take a cheaper deal, I see Breeland as walking.
Status: Let walk
I didn’t really expect much out of Fenton this year. I viewed this year as a redshirt year, until maybe he earned a bigger role in 2020. Injuries to Breeland and Morris Claiborne forced Fenton to step in, and he was pretty good for the most part. He mainly played slot cornerback, something I don’t know Fenton is the best at. When he did play on the boundary Fenton was really good in space. Fenton plays exactly the way Spags prefers his cornerbacks to play. He’s very physical at the catch point and runs receivers off their routes. He doesn’t grab often, but he’s still able to make plays on the ball easily. Fenton has really good speed, as well. Overall, he fits what Spagnuolo wants.
The main thing with Fenton is change of direction. He like to bite really easily, leaving him exposed on double moves. When he has a lot of space he needs to cover, Fenton really struggles. That’s why I think he’s more of a boundary corner than a slot corner. On the outside, he just needs to protect more vertically, something I fully trust him to do. Overall, I like the future of Fenton. I don’t think he’ll ever really be a star, but as a 4th CB next year, Fenton can be really good. His physicality will get him on the field. With more experience, expect Fenton to take another leap forward.
Status: Keep him
Claiborne was brought in as pure insurance to our top three corners, and he mainly was that. He didn’t really play much in 2019, mainly due to injuries. The trust between Spags and Claiborne didn’t really seem to be there. Claiborne was never really beat for touchdowns, but he was beat often in zone coverage. Claiborne is at his best when he can play at the line of scrimmage, and press receivers. While his speed has really declined, he still has the savvy and ball skills to make up for it.
Claiborne just isn’t good in zone. He doesn’t feel the routes of the receiver well, and is caught out of position. If he’s not able to be physical and match the feet of a receiver, he’s not good. Overall, we clearly saw that Claiborne didn’t have the trust in this coaching staff. He wasn’t active for one playoff game this year. They elevated Alex Brown over him. I’m glad that Claiborne got his ring, but there’s no chance he’s back next year.
Status: Let walk
I like Brown. He’s a physical cornerback, has length, and is able to press. We didn’t see much of him in 2019, but he fits what Spags wants. I think he’ll be back in 2019, as depth.
Status: Keep him