Marcus Peters won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award last year and he earned every bit of it. He got better as the year went on, showed a consistent knack for making plays and ended the year with eight picks – tied for first in the league.
A rookie. Already with the most picks in the league. Then he came out and did this in the first preseason game, as if the offseason had never happened:
And that’s very good for the Chiefs’ defense, because there have been questions about it this offseason. They failed to get safety Eric Berry a new contract and he’s not thrilled about having to play on the franchise tag. No. 1 corner Sean Smith left in free agency and he’s now with the Raiders. CB Phillip Gaines is coming off of an ACL injury. Defensive lineman Mike DeVito retired. Pass rusher Dee Ford has played well, but hasn’t looked like the star his draft position suggested.
And then there’s the Justin Houston situation. He had ACL surgery after the playoff loss to the Patriots and it’s unknown if he’ll be back for the entire season. At first, GM John Dorsey said:
“I’m not a medical expert, but I can tell you Justin Houston will be playing this season…our doctors have reassured us that he will play this season.”
He’s recently been backing off on that pretty hard, though, saying that his feeling that Houston would play was “the eternal optimist in me” and that “there is a chance” he takes the field. When asked if he hoped or expected it, he said:
“Expect is a strong word.”
The far side of Houston’s return timetable is 12 months, which would mean he’d miss the whole season and the postseason. Even if that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be suiting up in Week One and playing at 100 percent. Not at all.
The Chiefs know that Peters is an incredible player. They took him in the first despite his issues in college – he got kicked off the team – because he’s just that good. They know he went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie for a reason.
But all of the changes on defense have really stacked a lot of pressure on him. Without Smith, he has to prove that he can actually be the top CB. He has to prove he can do this all again, even though quarterbacks understand how good he is and coaches will game-plan around him. He has to prove he can do it without Houston’s elite pass-rushing ability forcing quarterbacks into bad throws, with less overall talent surrounding him.
That’s a lot to prove for a young player who, after all, just had one good year. A lot of guys look great as rookies and hit that sophomore slump. Some never recover. But the Chiefs doubled down on Peters, trusting he could get it done.
And he showed them, instantly, that he could. What’s more, it’s not like he got that pick against some third-string rookie QB who was frantically trying to make a bad team. He got it off of Russell Wilson, who is known for his ability to protect the ball. Who has won a Super Bowl and played in two. The Seahawks may not be quite what they were in 2013, but they’re still a very good team. If Peters can make crucial plays like that against them, in the end zone no less, he looks well on track to backing up his rookie season with another terrific year.