Kansas City Chiefs rookie LB Willie Gay Jr. estimates he missed out on around 100 snaps without rookie minicamp, OTAs and a normal training camp. That’s a lot of opportunities for a young player to miss — especially one that only started six of 31 career games in college.
“Repetition is big in this league,” Gay told reporters on Friday.
Despite his lack of repetitions ahead of the season, with most of his rookie year behind him, Gay feels good about where he’s at so far. The important thing for Gay has been winning, a common theme among most Chiefs players, whether they’re veterans or rookies.
“I think it’s gone great,” Gay said of his rookie season. “You can hope for a lot as a rookie, man, but to win on a team and win on a team with great vets that are teaching me a lot and with a great head coach and coaches around me. Of course, it can get better, when we win a Super Bowl, but right now it’s going great.”
Gay’s snap count has been a constant source of debate within the Chiefs Kingdom. His season-high of 39 defensive snaps came in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos. Since then, the talented rookie has only once had more than 30 defensive snaps in a game. Even though Gay hasn’t yet carved out a consistent role, he’s happy to play the role the coaching staff has found for him each week.
“Really, just put me in where I’m comfortable,” Gay said. “It’s not my decision, of course, it’s theirs. But really just finding a role for me every week. Depending on what a team likes to do, my role may increase, my role may decrease. They’ve been doing a real good job of getting me in whenever.”
Through his experience in his limited defensive snaps, Gay feels he’s improved in one distinct area and that’s his vision. The player nicknamed “Turbo” saw the NFL game moving a bit too quickly for him early on. That’s changed over the course of his 13 games as a professional.
“One thing I can say that I’ve gotten better at is my eyes,” Gay said. “It’s slowing down a lot for me. I can say that because, man, the first few weeks everything was like this [too fast]. Now I can see when guys pull, I can see just things happen in front of me and then I can react. That’s one of the things for sure.”
Part of his improvement is probably that he knows the playbook more and doesn’t have to think quite as much. The other part of it is that he’s mostly played in the same personnel packages, allowing him to develop a certain level of comfort.
“I think his knowledge of the playbook is really good,” Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo said on Thursday. “We’ve kept things pretty much the same in the packages that he’s in there. I think it’s getting out there and playing.”
As for where Gay is at in terms of his weekly snap count, things will likely continue to be determined by the gameplan. Spagnuolo thinks that eventually, he’ll be able to do more. It’s all just part of the natural growth process for a rookie player.
“I don’t know what his total snaps are but certainly not enough to get him to where, you know, when you have training camp and you have that base of snaps,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s going to be a growth process. We love the way he plays and he’s passionate about how he plays. He’s gone out there and made some plays for us. Little by little, we’ll just keep feeding it to him.”