Super Bowl LVII: Chiefs' rookie star McDuffie ready to play like a receiver against Eagles' dynamic duo

By Sports Desk February 12, 2023

Trent McDuffie perhaps did not have the profile of a typical first-round draft pick.

Undersized even for a cornerback at 5ft 11in and 193 pounds, McDuffie did not have the standout college production of a top selection, registering only two interceptions in three seasons for the Washington Huskies.

But McDuffie's long speed and coverage ability convinced the Kansas City Chiefs he was worthy of their opening selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, taking him with the 21st overall pick.

That decision now looks an extremely astute one, with McDuffie shining as the starting nickel corner for a secondary that features five rookies and will be critical to the Chiefs prevailing when they face the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday.

McDuffie has allowed receivers to get open on 21.54 per cent of his matchups across man and zone coverage, giving him the fourth-best such ratio among all cornerbacks in the NFL.

He believes his immediate success, and that of seventh-round rookie corner Jaylen Watson, second-round safety Bryan Cook and fourth-round corner Joshua Williams, is the product of an outstanding learning environment and the culture of a team playing in a third Super Bowl in four seasons, having reached the AFC Championship Game in each of those years.

"It feels so long since I was drafted, I've just been learning so much," McDuffie told Stats Perform.

"This year I've been able to be around vets who know the game, be around coaches who know the game and understand what an organisation that has gone back to back to back, what that looks like, the environment, the culture, it's been huge.

"When I first got there, I was like, you can tell something's a little different, and I think the biggest thing is they want to teach us so much that just the learning environment is huge.

"You don't get that in a lot of places, but it's just constantly people trying to develop you, trying to teach you, trying to help you learn, and with that I feel like that's why so many rookies are able to play so quickly and come in to this."

McDuffie has yet to register an interception in his pro career but knows that strong play at the catch point, even if it is simply preventing receptions, will be pivotal against two excellent ball-winners in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

Brown finished his first regular season in Philadelphia with 1,496 receiving yards and 11 touchdown receptions, while Smith racked up 1,196 yards and seven touchdown catches.

"I feel like the Eagles offense is super dynamic in terms of the offensive line is strong, their wide receiver core is strong, their depth at each position, they're so strong," added McDuffie.

"All 11 [starting defenders] are needed, that's something that, one, it's going to be fun because the dogs are going to go hunt, but again it's a challenge I'm excited to take on.

"After a full year of being in the NFL, the confidence is definitely there. We know we can play, we know we can do it.

"We've gone against the guys at the top of the league. It's going to come down to attacking the ball at the point of the catch because A.J. Brown, DeVonta, have really strong hands, so we're going to have to go out there and be a receiver on our own pretty much."

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