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Steve Spagnuolo hopes Willie Gay Jr. can replace ex-Chiefs LB Reggie Ragland

Chiefs Wire logo Chiefs Wire 5/19/2020 Charles Goldman
a group of football players on the field © Provided by Chiefs Wire

The Kansas City Chiefs added an athletic linebacker in the 2020 NFL Draft in Mississippi State LB Willie Gay Jr.

While the coaching staff hasn’t yet had a chance to work with him on the field and see him in practice, they already have an idea of how they intend to use him. We were told the Chiefs sought to add a coverage linebacker in the draft, so we knew that Gay Jr. would be playing one of the two outside linebacker positions. Now we have a better idea of what spot Kansas City likes him at for the 2020 season.

Our friend Pete Sweeney at Arrowhead Pride asked Spagnuolo specifically what linebacker position he envisions Gay playing in Kansas City during today’s coordinator media availability.

“We’ll probably begin with Willie [Gay Jr.] at one of the outside positions,” Spagnuolo said of the Chiefs’ second-round rookie. “We think, without knowing right away — We’re hopeful, I should say that he would replace what Reggie Ragland did for us last year. Now again, I preface that by saying we won’t know that until we get him.”

Ragland, of course, played the SAM linebacker position for the Chiefs during the 2020 season. For the Chiefs, that means Gay Jr. will line up on the strong side of the formation. He’ll be tasked with playing closer to the line of scrimmage, lining up across from the tight end. He’ll need to defeat blocks and set the edge, carry tight ends in zone drops, but also play off the line of scrimmage at times.

Right now, Spagnuolo’s big concern with Gay Jr. is whether they’ll have the time to get him acclimated to the NFL. He compared the situation the coronavirus pandemic has presented to the 2011 season with the CBA lockout.

“You guys get it. They come from college into the pros and it takes them a while to get up to speed. And he loses — all of these young guys lose out on not having these foundational [repetitions]. Whether it is mental or walkthroughs and it feels like, guys and gals, it feels like 2011 when we had the lockout when I was in St. Louis and we didn’t have all those guys. Now we’re way ahead of that because we have these zoom meetings.”

For Spagnuolo, the SAM linebacker spot is just the beginning for Gay Jr., and anything extra that they can get out of him in terms of versatility will be considered a bonus.

“I think Willie Gay will begin there,” Spagnuolo concluded. “And whatever else we can do with him, we’ll build on that.”


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