Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay was apart of one of the most in-depth Chiefs draft classes that we have seen in a while. With players from early in the draft to deep in the draft, all contributing more than expected.
There are a few players from that draft that could be potential rookie of the year candidates. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs’ first pick in the draft, was one of the league’s top rushers for much of the season but has missed a few games now due to injury. Another outstanding player, L’Jarius Sneed, was drafted in the fourth round but had been playing like a top-10 pick.
Even Michael Danna, the Chiefs fifth-round pick, is creating some havoc on the defensive line. There have been a few picks, however, who really haven’t gotten to showcase their skills as much. Their third-round pick, Lucas Niang, actually opted out for the season due to the pandemic. BoPete Keyes from Tulane was the seventh-round pick and has not gotten much run yet this season.
The aforementioned Gay, a second-round pick from Mississippi State, has also been held to limited snaps by the coaching staff. That was until week 16, though, when the rookie linebacker was given ample playing time due to starters being injured, and he went off.
Slow Start for the Rookie
Gay has not played a whole lot this season, and in fact, set his career-high in snaps this past Sunday. He has yet to play more than 53% of defensive snaps on the season and has actually only played more than 50% of the team’s defensive plays just twice.
Against the Raiders, in their first matchup, Gay was able to bring down Derek Carr for his only sack of the season. He has also registered three pass deflections while dropping back into coverage, which is a positive sign for the future when Kansas City decides to create more coverage packages with him.
With an average of 25% of snaps played per game, Gay has recorded 38 total tackles. That is a feat he should be proud of for only playing 255 total defensive snaps on the season.
Chiefs Linebacker Willie Gay Steps up
In the game against the Atlanta Falcons in week 16, Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay had a career day. Once Ben Niemann went out, that opened up an opportunity for Gay to play more. Instantly, just from the “eye test” alone, anyone could tell that he felt comfortable out there.
Gay actually led the team with nine tackles and was in on 72% of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps. One of those plays being a tackle that forced Calvin Ridley out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage after Gay flew across the field to make a stop.
He was graded as an 85.2 overall grade by Pro Football Focus, putting him as a high-quality performer. His 81.2 tackling grade was his season-best. They also graded Gay as an 87.0 run defender, putting him second-best on the team in that category for week 16.
He did have a missed tackle on Atlanta fullback Keith Smith that allowed him to reach the first down marker, but no one is perfect.
Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay having a great performance on Sunday is perfect timing for Kansas City fans. The linebacker spot has been a need for the past few years, and it is looking like it may finally be occupied.