Tyrann Mathieu wants some 'swagger' in Chiefs D

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  • By Grant Gordon NFL.com
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It was the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs offense that garnered acclaim and attention in 2018.

Video-game like numbers via Mahomes and a cavalcade of talent in the skill positions provided highlights and a driving force in Kansas City coming an overtime away from the Super Bowl.

Despite plenty of star power, though, the defense struggled -- 11th in the 12-team postseason field and 31st in the regular season in yards allowed.

Free-agent safety signing Tyrann Mathieu wants to change that and embracing a change in attitude might well be the first step in altering the Chiefs' defensive fortunes.

"Just really trying to build a defense with an attitude," Mathieu said via the Kansas City Star. "I think anytime you can have 10, 11 guys with a chip on their shoulder -- an edge, a certain kind of presence, a certain kind of attitude, a kind of swagger -- you create a collective identity. I think that's what we're trying to do. Definitely not trying to do something that's outside of our characteristics. I think we wake up each and every day and we live that way -- just with an attitude and a chip on our shoulder. Like I said, it can rub off on the guys around you."

In just one season with the Houston Texans, Mathieu proved he was still an elite defensive back. Somehow a Pro Bowl snub, Mathieu matched a career-high with 89 tackles as he played safety and cornerback and added eight passes defended, a pair of interceptions and a career-high three sacks.

Failing to re-sign him was a puzzling turn of events for the Texans and could be a boon for the Chiefs, who have defensive lineman Chris Jones back as their most notable returning starter. Gone are mainstays and standouts such as safety Eric Berry and pass rushers Justin Houston and Dee Ford.

So, there's not only room for improvement, but room for new leaders and Mathieu is happy to oblige.

"I think me, as a leader, as a guy that's been cut, been humiliated, embarrassed, whatever you put on it, I think it's important just to embrace the guys around you, really support them, encourage them and then kinda give them that confidence," said Mathieu, who was a controversial figure coming out of LSU before five seasons to start his career with the Cardinals. "Let them know that you believe in them, and hopefully they'll get to believing in themselves."

Often times, a defense that shares the same jersey as a high-scoring offense can be lost and even passive.

Mathieu is making it clear that it's about being mentally tough and aggressive -- the aforementioned edge, presence, attitude and swagger. As the season draws near, it'll become clearer who has it on the Chiefs and who doesn't.

"Once training camp gets here, it's a different level of intensity, a different level of excitement," Mathieu said. "Then when the season comes, you gotta grab the bull by the horns."

Despite the addition of Mathieu and the overall turnover on the defense, the Chiefs' offense will certainly be the focal point for fans and scribes alike.

In order to take that final step into the Super Bowl, though, the defense must improve.

"For me, it's about embracing the guys around me, believing in them but knowing that there's a certain direction we want to go in," Mathieu said. "Everybody can't lead you in that direction. A lot of guys on our side of the ball, we have to follow somebody in the right direction. Hopefully I can lead those guys in that direction."

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