The Chiefs are looking for every shortcut they can find in a short week preparing for the Philadelphia Eagles, an opponent they see only once every four years.
The lockers of inside linebacker Akeem Jordan and safety Quintin Demps are good places to start.
Jordan and Demps followed coach Andy Reid from Philadelphia to Kansas City last spring and both have made bigger impacts with the Chiefs than expected.
Jordan, who spent six seasons bouncing in and out of the Eagles lineup at all three linebacker spots in a 4-3 front, claimed a starting spot alongside Derrick Johnson in the Chiefs’ 3-4 base defense and hasn’t let go.
Demps burst onto the scene with the Chiefs as a kick returner, bringing back a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown in a preseason game against San Francisco, and he’s playing as an extra defensive back on passing downs.
Jordan and Demps have experienced the cheers at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, and they know what they’re in for on Thursday night.
“I’m not focused on the fans,” said Jordan, who appeared in 82 games with 34 starts for the Eagles during 2007-12. “Every stadium you’re going to have boos … you’re going to hear the crowd … you have to focus on the game.”
Jordan gave the 76,952 fans at Arrowhead Stadium something to cheer about at the end of the third quarter last Sunday when he pried the ball loose from Dallas running back Lance Dunbar at midfield when the Chiefs were clinging to a 14-13 lead.
The fumble was recovered by safety Eric Berry, who returned it 22 yards to the Dallas 31, and the Chiefs converted the opportunity into a field goal that provided the winning margin in a 17-16 victory.
“We’re just trying to make plays,” Jordan said. “It just so happens that I made that play. It’s a team game. It’s not like I’m patting myself on the back. You saw Eric picked it up and ran with it. It wasn’t just me.”
Jordan and Demps appeared to be place holders when the Chiefs signed them as street free agents last spring. The club was looking to plug the vacancy at inside linebacker left by the death of Jovan Belcher; and it needed insurance at free safety because Kendrick Lewis was coming a season filled with shoulder injuries.
The common denominator in their decisions to sign with the Chiefs was Reid, who brought them into the league at Philadelphia.
“Andy is a phenomenal coach,” Jordan said. “He’s the same guy as he was in Philly. He’s going to work you hard, you’re going to play hard for him. He’s a good guy, he’s not one of those guys you can’t go talk to. He’s a coach who looks out for the players. He’s a players’ coach.”
Jordan made the Eagles as an undrafted free agent after leading James Madison to an NCAA Division I-AA national championship. He spent the first seven weeks of the 2007 season on the Eagles practice squad before he was activated and became a special teams standout before becoming a spot starter in Philadelphia.
“He’s a heck of a kid, tough tough,” Reid said of Jordan. “Nothing flashy about him. He is a tough special teams player, and that is how he made his name. He had the opportunity here to start. He started a number of games for me in Philadelphia and did a nice job for us and has done the same thing here.
“He is not a flashy personality, but he goes out and gives you an honest day’s work every day.”
Jordan began training camp with the Chiefs battling fourth-round draft pick Nico Johnson for a starting role, but Johnson, who helped Alabama win three national championships in four years, suffered a high ankle sprain during preseason and has yet to appear in a regular season game.
Jordan has blossomed with the Chiefs largely because he has been able to focus on one position instead of worrying about two others.
“It’s a team game, so wherever they need me, that’s where I’m going to play,” said Jordan, who is also part of the Chiefs’ kickoff, kickoff-return, punt and punt-return units. “That’s how I’ve been brought up since I’ve been playing this game. I was blessed to be able to play so many positions.”
Demps, meanwhile, was a fourth-round draft pick out of Texas-El Paso by the Eagles in 2008 and proved to be a dangerous kick returner, averaging 25.3 yards a return, including a 100-yard touchdown at Baltimore. But Reid released Demps before the start of the 2010 season, and he spent parts of the next three seasons with Houston before resurfacing with his old coach in Kansas City.
“It was a tough time,” Demps said of being released by the Eagles. “It kind of made me the man I am, just going through that struggle. I was out of the league … it was a little maturation point for me in my life, and I wouldn’t change it.”
The fact that Reid showed enough faith in Demps to give him another opportunity gives him extra motivation to play hard for him. Especially on Thursday at Philadelphia.
“The players definitely want to win it … not only just for him but for ourselves as well,” Demps said. “We know he was there so long, and it would put an extra smile on his face and his family’s face to really smash them in the mouth. We just want to win period.”