The Chiefs signed inside linebacker Josh Mauga as insurance at the start of training camp, and the move will pay off Sunday against Tennessee when he starts in the base 3-4 defense in place of injured Joe Mays.
Mauga fit easily into Kansas City’s system after spending his first five seasons with the New York Jets, where he played for Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton during 2009-12.
“Josh is very versatile, can play at any position in our (nickel) or base,” Sutton said. “He’s a very intense guy; he plays with a lot of passion. He’s quiet, but he loves to play the game. We’re fortunate to have a guy like that who can step in when a guy like Joe goes down.”
Once Mays was injured, Mauga’s superior skills at stopping the run beat out James-Michael Johnson and Nico Johnson for the strong side inside linebacker spot alongside Derrick Johnson.
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“My high school coach always told me, ‘The best way to get around the football is to be aggressive,’” said Mauga, who is from Fallon, Nev., and played in college at Nevada. “So every time I get a chance to play the run, I’m going to go and get it.”
De’Anthony Thomas doubtful
Chiefs rookie running back/punt returner De’Anthony Thomas did not practice on Friday because of a strained hamstring but did run on the treadmill. He was listed as doubtful on the injury report.
“He actually ran pretty fast on the treadmill, and he’s making progress,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “It will be a stretch for the game. We’ll see how he does.”
If Thomas cannot play, Reid said wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. will be the primary punt returner.
Cornerback Marcus Cooper returned to practice after missing a day because of an ankle injury and should be available for Sunday. He was listed as questionable.
Center Eric Kush, who has a shoulder injury, is also questionable.
The Star’s Terez A. Paylor contributed to this report.