Based on his choice of comparison, inside linebacker Reggie Ragland apparently believes the Chiefs’ defense contains the potential for greatness. They just need time to build toward that goal.
They also need Ragland to be better.
Ragland, in his second season with the Chiefs after joining the organization via trade in August last year, offered up that assessment following Sunday’s win over the San Francisco 49ers. Of course, he enjoyed the luxury of being self-critical in the aftermath of his team’s third straight win to start the season. Sunday also marked his 25th birthday.
“Piece by piece,” Ragland said of the defense’s getting closer to playing a complete game. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was this defense.”
The Rome comparison, which Ragland used multiple times, expressed his confidence that the defense will continue to make strides. It also acknowledged the Chiefs’ defense letting its play slip in one quarter of each game so far. Those letdowns have allowed opposing offenses to climb back within striking distance.
The Chargers scored 16 of their 28 points in the fourth quarter of the season opener. The following week, 21 of the Steelers’ 37 points came in the second quarter. This past Sunday, the 49ers scored 14 of their 27 points in the third quarter.
The Chiefs enter this week with the highest-scoring offense in the NFL (39.3 points per game), and they have not trailed once this season.
“That puts pressure on us to make sure we get into a rhythm and we go out there and get stops, so they can keep getting the ball — which is important because every time they touch the ball, they’re scoring,” Ragland said. “So we’ve got to do a great job of coming out there and getting three-and-outs.”
Ragland, a 6-foot-2, 252-pound run-stuffer who spent most of training camp sidelined with an ailing knee, played more defensive snaps this past Sunday (49) than he did in either of the first two games of the season. He made seven tackles to bump his season total to 19. The 49ers used a lot of two-back sets and had fullback Kyle Juszczyk on the field 78 percent of the time.
The 49ers also rushed for more yards (178) than the Chiefs had given up in the previous two games combined. Ragland said as a group, the Chiefs needed to be better with their eyes. He also praised 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s use of misdirection, called Shanahan “unbelievable,” and referenced his father, Mike, an offensive guru who enjoyed success as an offensive coordinator and head coach for the better part of three decades in the NFL.
Specifically, Ragland took the blame for getting caught looking the wrong way on Juszczyk’s 35-yard touchdown pass of off a play-action fake in the second quarter.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Juice got loose for the touchdown. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFvsKC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SFvsKC</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoNiners?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoNiners</a> <a href="https://t.co/zVrUWQzjhn">pic.twitter.com/zVrUWQzjhn</a></p>— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) <a href="https://twitter.com/49ers/status/1043921967152168960?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 23, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
“I know I had a couple bad plays with my eyes,” Ragland said. “I need to do a whole lot better, really. Like I said, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’ve just got to keep on building. We’ve got the pieces, so we’ve just got to keep getting better. Offense is doing what they do. Defense, I feel like the more and more we get around each other and keep playing games, we’re going to keep getting stronger.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid pointed out that the projected starting defense never played together as a full unit in the preseason due to injuries. He claims his defense is continuing to make progress and develop communication in the first month of the regular season.
Reid referenced the lack of preseason repetitions when asked about Ragland’s play so far. Ragland and offseason addition Anthony Hitchens, the Chiefs’ other starting inside linebacker, played together in just one of the team’s preseason games.
“The more he plays, the better he becomes,” Reid said of Ragland. “We saw it last year. He’s one of those guys that didn’t have much time in camp, and he’s a big guy that we’re asking to do a lot of things. The more he does it — he just needs to keep playing.”