In the stadium that they achieved ultimate glory in last season, the Chiefs pass rush came alive with a combination of youth and experience. Hopefully, the pass rush is here to stay.
The Kansas City Chiefs made a triumphant return to Miami this past weekend as they defeated the Dolphins 33-27, but the game was never as close as the score indicated. One of the main contributing factors in the victory was the Chiefs defensive line getting back into form with four sacks, after nearly a month of getting little to no pressure.
Four separate Chiefs recorded a sack, and the assault on Tua Tagovailoa started with two of the Chiefs rookies. Mike Danna played a very solid game, recording the sack below and three total tackles for loss. Some had Danna pegged as just a roster filler or even a guy who could be on the bubble to make the roster, but Danna has shown that he will have the ability to be a solid contributor moving forward for the Chiefs. He isn’t the most explosive athlete and doesn’t have an elite get off, but he is a technically sound player with a high motor, who uses his hands to win reps.
It’s been no secret that Frank Clark has struggled in recent weeks to generate any kind of pass rush, and he had come over heavy criticism from the media as well as Chiefs fans. The criticism is warranted, Clark having zero sacks for three consecutive weeks and only one since week four headed into the game. Late in the second quarter, he was able to get back in the sack column as well as close out the second half with a high-quality sack just as the Dolphins were driving the ball down the field.
Clark is going to have to continue to show this ability week in and week out and find a way to create as much production as possible. He is the highest-paid player on the team this season making over $19 million and making up 8.74% of the Chiefs cap roster, also the highest on the team, but five sacks on the season isn’t close to what the Chiefs should be getting out of him for what he is being paid. This is a conversation for the offseason, but the Chiefs need to find a way to get more out of Clark.
The Chiefs biggest surprise of the season continues to be the emergence of rookie defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton who had another impressive performance, recording another sack as well as finishing with an overall grade of 79.2 according to Pro Football Focus. Wharton showed again his explosive athletic ability with his sack in which he was untouched by Dolphins guard Solomon Kindley. Wharton has turned it on as a pass rusher in the past few weeks, and when combined with Chris Jones is giving teams an issue with interior protection due to the pure athletic ability of both on pass rush downs.
Jones had one of his best days of the season rushing the passer, and also was able to record a fantastic overall grade for the game.
His sack was especially important because it put two points on the scoreboard and helped the Chiefs grow their lead as the game would get close down the line. It also highlighted the Chiefs using a good twist game to get their best player a nearly free rush at the quarterback.
Jones played good all game, but considering that the Dolphins made a late rally to try to come back the extra two points were much needed by the Chiefs to pull off the win.
This is the kind of consistent pressure the Chiefs have missed the last few weeks, from a unit that they will be depending on moving forward. After weeks of little to no pressure, the Chiefs were able to take advantage of a young and inexperienced Dolphins offensive line, and the results went as they should have.
Jones and Clark make up a combined 16.04% of the Chiefs’ entire salary cap, meaning the Chiefs will be relying on them to create most of their pressure the rest of the way out as well as lead the unit. Tershawn Wharton and Mike Danna make up just .57%, meaning that whatever the Chiefs can get from them as far as production rushing the passer the rest of the way is just a bonus.
This game needs to be a stepping stone for all four of these players, as well as Alex Okafor, who didn’t record a sack but had three quarterback hits. Jones and Clark must continue to be the Chiefs’ go-to guys for the pass rush and play like the players they are paid to be.
The combination of Danna, Okafor, and Wharton need to be able to win one-on-one matchups frequently, considering the fact that if Jones and Clark turn it on like they did last year, it is going to force more double teams and chip blocks from teams in pass protection.
To win big games in the NFL teams have to get pressure on the quarterback. The Chiefs need to continue to build off of this performance and be ready to bring the same energy and effort against a good Saints front this week.