New linebacker Ragland is already fitting in well with Chiefs

Chiefs-Patriots preview, prediction, and keys to victory

Kansas City Star Chiefs beat writer Terez Paylor provides his analysis, prediction and four keys for a KC victory in the Chiefs' regular-season opener against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.
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Kansas City Star Chiefs beat writer Terez Paylor provides his analysis, prediction and four keys for a KC victory in the Chiefs' regular-season opener against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.

Reggie Ragland’s locker at the Chiefs’ practice facility is located right next to Derrick Johnson’s, one of the team’s defensive alpha dogs.

The two share the same position, inside linebacker, and for someone like Ragland — a gym rat who has been studying Johnson for years — this small fact represents a stroke of good fortune that reflects the good vibes he’s already received in Kansas City.

“I think I fit in real well,” said Ragland, who was acquired from the Buffalo Bills last week for a fourth-round pick in 2019. “The guys have welcomed me with open arms.”

The 6-foot-2, 258-pound Ragland — a second-round pick only a year ago — was characterized as an old-school thumper as a draft prospect, a run stuffer with a passion for the game of football. It’s a skill set that could serve him well in Kansas City, where the position he’s been practicing at — the “mike” spot — is charged with being physical, taking on blocks and generally freeing up Johnson to slice underneath blocks and make plays from his “weakside” spot.

Ragland is currently No. 2 on the depth chart behind starter Ramik Wilson, however, and it remains to be seen when he’ll even play. He suffered a season-ending ACL injury early in training camp a year ago with the Bills, and both Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach have made it clear they don’t feel compelled to rush his development. Though Ragland can practice, the team is being cautious in his recovery, in hopes of having a really good player at 100 percent the second half of the season.

“It’s just sore, and it’s going to be sore the rest of my life,” Ragland said with a laugh. “I can play with that. My knee’s doing good, but they want me to be in tip-top shape when I do hit the field. … I respect that they’ve got me coming in here doing rehab constantly, getting my knee right.”

If the time comes where he’s called on to play next to Johnson, Ragland will do so humbly, ready to heed his veteran teammate’s advice on the field. Teammates rave about Johnson’s ability to predict the opponent’s upcoming plays, and he’s been given the freedom by the coaching staff to make subtle adjustments to make plays. That requires communication between the two inside linebackers, something Ragland suggests will not be a problem.

“Whatever he says, goes, because it’s his team,” Ragland said. “Whatever he needs me to do on the field, I’m going to do. He’s running the show.”

The Chiefs are taking it slow with Ragland physically, but after a week with the Chiefs, he doesn’t think it will take him long to pick up the scheme. Defensively, the Chiefs run a similar 3-4 scheme to the one he starred in at Alabama, where he also played the “mike” spot for the Crimson Tide. He thinks it will only take him a couple of weeks to get accustomed to the defense.

“I feel like I’m at home — I’m not going to lie,” Ragland said. “Sitting there, playing the run and letting the big guys up front eat, yeah, I feel like I’m at home and it feels good.”

Ragland said his primary focus, whenever his time comes on defense, will be getting players lined up correctly.

“I already know on the back end, they’re going to do what they do,” Ragland said. “I’ve just got to make sure the front line is ready to go.”

In the meantime, he’ll do his best to earn his way back on the field on special teams first, which the Chiefs take seriously under guru Dave Toub.

“Punt, punt return, kickoff, kick return, I did all of it all ’Bama,” Ragland said. “Whenever I’m out there, I’ll do my best to put on a show for these people.”

Kansas City Star Chiefs beat writer Terez Paylor discussed Thursday night's regular season opener against the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., with Sam Mellinger and Blair Kerkhoff. The trio made their predictions for the nationally televised game.