KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs are poised to make some changes to the starting lineup in the search for some momentum after a 2-3 start to the 2021 season.
Third-year safety Juan Thornhill will replace Daniel Sorenson in the Chiefs’ lineup against the Washington Football Team, according to NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport, but there also may be changes coming to the offensive line.
The #Chiefs are making a big move on defense: Juan Thornhill will start, Daniel Sorensen is headed to a reserve role.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 17, 2021
My story: https://t.co/Qth7YFlxZt
Sorenson got beat deep twice in a 38-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills last week. He’s struggled in coverage and with missed tackles this season.
Despite that, Sorenson has played in 325 of 332 defensive snaps, which ranks second on the Chiefs behind only L’Jarius Sneed (326), this season.
"To focus on one person, I don't think is fair,” Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said when asked about Sorenson’s struggles this week. “Did Dan struggle a bit last week? Yeah.”
Starting Thornhill won’t be a panacea for arguably the NFL’s worst defense, but the Chiefs hope it provides a much-needed spark for a unit that ranks last in the NFL in scoring defense and second-to-last in total defense.
Thornhill started in place of safety Tyrann Mathieu during the season opener, but he hadn’t played more than 44% of Kansas City’s snaps on defense in any game since.
As a rookie in 2019, Thornhill started all 16 games, totaling 58 tackles and three interceptions before a torn ACL ended his season in Week 17.
He appeared in all 16 games, including eight starts, in 2020, but struggled to recover the form that made him a second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft from the University of Virginia.
Now, Thornhill will get a chance to solidify his spot, adding some much-needed speed to the back end of the Chiefs’ defense.
Kansas City fans haven’t seen the last of Sorenson — who will still have a role as the third safety, similar to the role Thornhill has played, at Washington.
Chiefs fans also probably haven’t seen the last of Lucas Niang, but veteran Mike Remmers will step in for the first-year player at right tackle, according to Arrowhead Pride’s Pete Sweeney.
Amidst the reports about #Chiefs defensive changes, it is looking as though Mike Remmers will get the start at right tackle. Last year’s starter should get an opportunity to get his job back.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) October 17, 2021
Remmers started — and largely excelled — in 10 games during the 2020 season at right tackle with Mitchell Schwartz injured. He was forced to play left tackle in the Super Bowl after Eric Fisher’s ruptured Achilles’ tendon in the AFC Championship Game.
After easing wide receiver Josh Gordon into the offense with a handful of snaps last week, Kansas City expects to give Washington a much heavier dose of the former All-Pro.
The Chiefs also may tinker with the linebacker rotation, keeping its pair of speedy young linebackers — second-year pro Willie Gay Jr. and rookie Nick Bolton — on the field more with Anthony Hitchens on the sideline in certain situations, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported.
Chiefs know they need more speed on the field on defense. That will mean more Juan Thornhill at safety and possibly more Nick Bolton and Willie Gay together at linebacker.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 17, 2021