Southern Miss

Chiefs lineman nicknamed ‘Nacho’ ate well, added weight and got better

Chiefs defensive linemen Rakeem Nunez-Roches (left), who showed up at training camp about 25 pounds heavier than when he left last season, shared a laugh with Allen Bailey before a practice at Missouri Western State in St. Joseph.
Chiefs defensive linemen Rakeem Nunez-Roches (left), who showed up at training camp about 25 pounds heavier than when he left last season, shared a laugh with Allen Bailey before a practice at Missouri Western State in St. Joseph. deulitt@kcstar.com

The Chiefs put in an order for more Rakeem Nunez-Roches, and he delivered.

Carrying 307 pounds, Nunez-Roches, a third-year defensive lineman popularly known as “Nacho,” arrived at training camp about 25 pounds heavier than when he left last season.

The idea was to trade a bit of agility for some lower-half strength and bulk.

“I was always fast and agile and explosive but anytime I was hit on my hip I would go flying,” Nunez-Roches said. “If I just added a little bit more to my lower half I would be OK.”

The first competitive test was positive. Starting at nose tackle in Friday’s preseason opener, Nunez-Roches came up with four tackles in 26 defensive snaps.

One came on a goal-line stand, when Nunez-Roches broke through and dropped running back Matt Breida for no gain on third-and-goal at the 1. The 49ers wound up booting a field goal.

“I’m more stout,” Nunez-Roches said. “I can hold my ground at the point of contact. That’s what I had trouble with last year. I actually surprised myself when I knocked them off the ball. I was like, ‘Dang, maybe those pounds really did help.’”

Defensive line coach Britt Reid noticed that Nunez-Roches was able to plant his foot in the Arrowhead Stadium turf on Friday and not be pushed back.

“He’s got the built-in leverage,” Britt Reid said.

It wasn’t a perfect game. Nunez-Roches received an illegal-block penalty on a kickoff return. But he was the first player coach Andy Reid mentioned when Reid was asked about his general thoughts on the game the following day.

“He’s somebody I wanted to keep an eye on,” Reid said. “He’s put on some weight, which is what you see with guys … when they’re in the league for a couple of years (and) they figure out what the prime weight is.

“He put on some real good weight. He’s had a good camp and it carried over to the game. Before he was more of a pass-rush guy but he’s getting that run thing going, so that was good to see.”

The scale indicated Nunez-Roches started last season about 290 pounds but finished around 280. He said the loss throughout the season occurred because the weight was in the belly.

“Last year I (gained weight) in a bad way,” Nunez-Roches said. “This time I did it at a slower pace, added muscle and it wasn’t just all in my stomach.”

Nunez-Roches specifically targeted his lower half when he started packing on the pounds.

“At first, no cardio, just eating,” Nunez-Roches said “But not eating bad things. Fish, chicken breast, no red meat, vegetables. Then after you start progressing the weight, you start doing the cardio.”

After appearing in five games as a rookie, Nunez-Roches, a native of Belize and a sixth-round pick from Southern Miss in 2015, played in 11 contests last season and started five. He was credited with 18 tackles and collected his first sack.

The Chiefs made moves on the defensive line in the offseason, losing Dontari Poe as a free agent to the Atlanta Falcons and releasing Jaye Howard.

They’ve added Bennie Logan and Roy Miller, a pair of NFL veterans who fit the nose tackle mode, and now Nunez-Roches has the size and strength to play tackle and end in the Chiefs 3-4 alignment.

“We can put him at nose, we can put him anywhere,” Britt Reid said. “He’s a guy with a high motor, high energy, he loves the games and works at it. He wants to do everything exactly right.

“We’ve kind of just scratched the surface with him.”

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff

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