Everyone thought heading into training camp that third-year Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill would make the leap to a real Pro-Bowl caliber player. Thornhill had a solid rookie year followed by a quiet second season where he saw an 18% decrease in snaps because of the fact he was coming off a torn ACL from week 17 of 2019.
Usually, a player takes a year to fully regain the speed and athleticism they have after a major knee injury like Thornhill's so it's not a surprise his progression would be a bit delayed and Thornhill did show signs of bouncing back late last season and in the playoffs.
Thornhill even told Arrowhead Report of Sports Illustrated that he is back to 100% and did not feel he was last year.
"Honestly, I had to play it off a little bit," said Thornhill.
"I wasn’t at 100%, but it was just more about the mental. Like, I had to tell myself, 'It’s going to hurt, but you’ve got to play through it."
That meant Thornhill was viewing this offseason and 2021 as his make or break year and his opportunity to take back sole possession of his starting free safety spot after head coach Andy Reid called him a "situational guy" in 2020.
Surprisingly, though, Thornhill had a rough outing in the first preseason game vs the San Francisco 49ers and following that, was running with the 3rd team defense at practice. Take that as you will, and Andy Reid said not to put much stock in it, but there's most likely something to read into here.
I mean, sure a lot of guys will mix in with the different teams and Thornhill did still get some snaps with the first team throughout training camp but it's not like they have Travis Kelce or Tyrann Mathieu working with the 3rd team extensively. If you really like a player you aren't going to relegate him to 3rd team for almost all of practice.
Another worrisome (depending on how you look at it) aspect is they ran Armani Watts with the first team that same practice and Watts outperformed Thornhill in the preseason game. With all due respect to Watts, I think a lot of people saw him as a roster bubble guy prior to camp.
It's worth noting that Thornhill did sustain a groin injury at the start of camp and maybe that's what's limiting him right now, but that doesn't totally explain the 3rd team snaps as you would hope Thornhill is at least still ahead of the backups to the backups and you would think the coaches want him to still get mental reps with and against the starters even if he's still hurting a tad.
Even if it's just the Chiefs wanting to see Watts or wanting to take it easy with Thornhill 3rd team just seems a bit harsh. Why not 2nd team? There's just an odd vibe around it.
Maybe some of us truly are reading too much into it. Maybe Thornhill is still injured. Or could all this be a serious cause for concern? You tell us, Chiefs Kingdom.