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Rookie Rakeem Nunez-Roches brings versatility to defensive line

Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, right, stretched out on Thursday morning.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, right, stretched out on Thursday morning. deulitt@kcstar.com

Rakeem Nunez-Roches has seen a lot of change in his life over the last few months.

Nunez-Roches, a defensive lineman and sixth-round draft pick out of Southern Miss, has moved to a new city and is now a professional football player.

And now he’ll have to face new opponents, a challenge he’s excited to tackle, just like an opposing running back in the backfield.

Facing new competition is something Nunez-Roches will have to adjust to as well. Nunez-Roches said his familiarity with his opponents helped him plan his rushes. That affected whether he would shoot the gaps or bull rush right up field.

“I knew all the backfield sets and certain formations, and what they were able to do,” Nunez-Roches said. “So if I felt like he was going a certain way, I’d shoot the gap. If I felt like he was playing down, I’d play the block down.”

That versatility will be the key for Nunez-Roches as a Chief, and he’s also capable of playing all of the positions on the defensive line and even some outside linebacker, all of which he did at Southern Miss.

And with Dontari Poe sidelined because of back issues for at least a large portion of training camp, Nunez-Roches will almost surely have the chance to see time there.

For now, it doesn’t really matter where the coaching staff plays him, he said.

“Right now I’m not even really worried about that,” Nunez-Roches said. “Wherever coach wants me to play, whether it’s nose tackle or end, that’s what I’ll do.”

Nunez-Roches has been soaking in all of the advice and criticism defensive line coach Tommy Brasher has offered to him before the veterans get to camp and take his reps.

“I really don’t care right now,” Nunez-Roches said. “Just to fit in the rotation and play.”

Nunez-Roches, a hulking figure listed at 6 feet 2 and 307 pounds, arrived at camp in the best possible shape he could be in. That being said, he’s figuring out the mental aspect of professional football.

“There’s a lot of things I can improve mentally to sharpen up,” he said. “Like how to be a better pro. That comes with learning.”

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