Juan Thornhill

Chiefs To Start Juan Thornhill Over Daniel Sorensen

The Chiefs are making a change at the safety position. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes, Kansas City is relegating Daniel Sorensen, who has started every game since Week 6 of last year (save for a meaningless Week 17 contest) to a reserve role.

Juan Thornhill will get the start alongside strong safety Tyrann Mathieu in Sorensen’s stead. Thornhill, a 2019 second-rounder, started every game of his rookie campaign, intercepting three passes and generally playing like a high-level defender. However, he suffered a torn ACL in the last game of the 2019 season, and though he played in all 16 contests last year (eight starts), he still struggled with his knee pain and could not replicate his earlier level of performance.

Sorensen, re-signed to a one-year, $2.4MM contract this offseason, has struggled mightily in 2021. He has been repeatedly beaten in coverage, is yielding a 153.8 passer rating when targeted by opposing QBs, and has also missed nine tackles. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics, which weren’t particularly high on him in 2020 either, view him as the third-worst safety in the league among players with over 100 snaps.

The Chiefs have gotten off to a 2-3 start, and their porous defense has been the primary reason for that. KC currently ranks as the second-worst defense in terms of yards allowed, and while the Sorensen-Thornhill swap won’t be a cure-all, it is certainly a logical move to make.

Thornhill has played in just 142 snaps this year (compared to Sorensen’s 325), but he has been decidedly more effective in his limited action. Per PFF, the Virginia product ranks as a top-30 safety, which includes an above-average coverage mark. A return to his 2019 form could position him well for a possible extension in 2022.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Lindsay, Packers, DeCastro

An illness that has been going through the Green Bay locker room has claimed another victim. The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman tweets that Packers punter JK Scott is now questionable for tomorrow’s NFC Championship Game. Fortunately, the team has an open roster spot, so they won’t have to cut anybody to add some reinforcement.

Scott had a solid season for the Packers, averaging 44 yards on his 77 punts. He landed 29 punts inside the 20 yard line, earning him a spot on Pro Football Reference’s NFL All-Pro Second Team

Wide receiver Geronimo Allison was listed on the injury report with an illness this week, but he was a full participant at Friday’s practice.

Let’s check out some more injury notes from around the league…

  • Steelers guard David DeCastro underwent an ankle procedure this week, according to Yahoo’s Charles Robinson (via Twitter). The surgery provides an explanation for why the offensive lineman dropped out of the Pro Bowl. Robinson notes that the operation went well, and DeCastro isn’t expected to “miss extended time in the offseason program.”
  • Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay underwent a “simple, clean-up arthroscopic procedure” on his right wrist, according to Mike Klis of 9News in Denver. The team’s top rusher should be recovered by offseason team workouts in April. Lindsay actually suffered the wrist injury during the 2018 season, and he dealt with the ailment throughout the 2019 campaign. Despite the discomfort, the running back still managed to finished with his second-straight 1,000-yard season.
  • Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill underwent successful surgery to repair a torn ACL in his knee, tweets NFL Network’s James Palmer. The rookie second-rounder started all 16 games for Kansas City, compiling 58 tackles, five passes defended, and three interceptions. He suffered the injury during his team’s Week 17 game against the Chargers, sidelining him for the entire postseason.
  • Raiders cornerback Isaiah Johnson had back surgery this week, tweets Vic Tafur of The Athletic. The fourth-round rookie was placed on injured reserve to start the year, and he was ultimately activated in November. Johnson proceeded to appear in five games for Oakland, collecting two tackles and one pass defended.

Chiefs S Juan Thornhill Tears ACL

The Chiefs had a big Sunday, picking up a first-round bye in the playoffs thanks to their win over the Chargers and the Dolphins’ upset of the Patriots. Unfortunately they didn’t escape Week 17 unscathed, as starting safety Juan Thornhill went down with a knee injury that was later revealed to be a torn ACL, per Adam Teicher of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Needless to say, the injury will keep Thornhill out of the playoffs. The Chiefs drafted Thornhill in the second round back in April, and he started all 16 regular season games for them. The rookie was a huge part of the defense, playing an every-snap role. Kansas City’s pass defense has quietly been playing really well this season, and Thornhill had formed a great safety duo with veteran Tyrann Mathieu.

Thornhill will finish his first season as a pro with 59 tackles and three interceptions. It’s a big blow as the Chiefs gear up for their playoff run. The Virginia product’s absence will leave a huge hole in a defense that had been peaking recently.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Gordon, Broncos, Thornhill

In examining the contract impasse between the Chargers and running back Melvin Gordon, both Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com emphasize one factor that has been largely overlooked in other reports and opinions concerning Gordon’s threat to sit out the entire season: if Gordon makes good on his threat, his contract would toll and he would still be under club control in 2020 at the same salary he would earn in 2019. So Gordon really doesn’t have a ton of leverage here, which is why Fitzgerald believes the 2015 first-round pick will ultimately be on the field come Week 1 regardless of whether he has a new deal in place.

Now for more from the AFC West, starting with additional thoughts on Gordon:

  • Fitzgerald notes that Gordon does not fit neatly into either the top tier of the league’s running backs, who have contracts paying at least $13MM per season, or into the second tier, which tops out at an AAV of $8.25MM. Fitzgerald believes that, if the Chargers want to keep Gordon for the long haul — which is still up in the air at this point — the two sides will come together on a pact that pays Gordon around $10MM per season.
  • It’s roster projection season, and Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post takes a look at the Broncos‘ WR situation. Emmanuel Sanders‘ inability to participate in the Broncos’ offseason program allowed the club to thoroughly its evaluate young pass catchers, who impressed the coaching staff with their intelligence and instincts. O’Halloran notes that Sanders could open training camp on the PUP list, and his health may force Denver to carry six receivers, good news for rookie sixth-rounder Juwann Winfree and UDFA Trinity Benson. O’Halloran believes both players will make the team.
  • In a separate piece, O’Halloran explores UDFA Ahmad Gooden‘s chances of making the Broncos. O’Halloran says Gooden drew interest from multiple teams after the draft but saw Denver as the best fit given its newfound openings at OLB. Gooden was a stand-up DE in college, but he was asked to drop into both man and zone coverage, which is a skill that’s expected of the Broncos’ outside ‘backers. If he can flash some pass rush ability, he will have a good shot.
  • Mike Klis of 9News.com examines the Broncos‘ revamped secondary, which should be a strength for the team this season. However, he notes that safety Su’a Cravens may be a long shot to make the 53-man roster. While Denver’s previous regime saw Cravens as a dime linebacker, new HC Vic Fangio says Cravens will need to make the club as a pure safety, which seems like a dubious proposition given Cravens’ struggles in coverage in 2018, his first season with the Broncos.
  • Brook Pryor of the Kansas City Star takes a shot at projecting the Chiefs‘ 53-man roster. After an impressive spring, Pryor believes UDFA Cody Thompson will fill the club’s last WR spot at least until Tyreek Hill returns from his likely suspension, and she tabs Juan Thornhill as a key piece to the Kansas City secondary. The second-round rookie from UVA looked good in spring practices before injuring his hamstring, and assuming he is ready for training camp and continues to play well, he will be the Chiefs’ starting free safety and Tyrann Mathieu will be able to play closer to the line, which is his preference.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/14/19

Here are the latest players to agree to terms on their rookie deals:

  • The Chiefs signed the latter of their two second-round picks, safety Juan Thornhill, on Tuesday. Thornhill, who arrived in Kansas City as the No. 63 overall pick out of Virginia, will attempt to move into the starting lineup alongside Tyrann Mathieu as a rookie. Thornhill intercepted 13 passes over his final three seasons with the Cavaliers. The only member of their six-man class left unsigned is third-rounder Khalen Saunders; third-rounders’ deals can be tricky with the current CBA.
  • Four more Seahawks draftees signed their four-year deals Tuesday. Wide receivers Gary Jennings (Round 4) and John Ursua (Round 7) signed. So did sixth-round picks Demarcus Christmas, a defensive tackle out of Florida State, and Travis Homer, Miami-produced running back. Jennings and Ursua, out of West Virginia and Hawaii, respectively, have better odds at contributing this season after Doug Baldwin‘s retirement. Jennings caught 13 touchdown passes last season, while Ursua snagged 16. D.K. Metcalf remains unsigned.
  • Two of the Broncos‘ Day 3 picks — fifth-round outside linebacker Justin Hollins and sixth-round wide receiver Juwann Winfree — became the team’s first 2019 draftees to sign. Hollins, an Oregon product who combined for 11 sacks across his junior and senior seasons, will likely be in good position to see time behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The Broncos lost Shaquil Barrett in free agency and are unlikely to bring back Shane Ray. Winfree will join a young Denver receiving corps, which will likely have four first- or second-year cogs.
  • Only one Lions draft choice remains unsigned after sixth-rounder Travis Fulgham agreed to terms. The Old Dominion-produced wideout will vie for a reserve role behind Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. Third-round safety Will Harris has yet to sign.