The Chiefs have high expectations heading into the 2021 season. They are coming off back to back Super Bowl appearances and are once again the betting favorite to win the Super Bowl. A major factor that will contribute to them getting back to their third straight Super Bowl is the play of the defensive line.
The Chiefs have invested heavily in the position. Frank Clark and Chris Jones are two of the highest paid players, not only at their positions, but at any position in the entire NFL. Jones cap hit increases to $29 million in 2022. That is a monster number.
Sadly, this investment hasn’t been paid off with the production that the Chiefs brass was hoping for. Chris Jones has been a monster and is widely regarded as one of, if not the best interior pass rusher, not named Aaron Donald, in the NFL. Frank Clark’s time in KC, however, has come with much more scrutiny.
Clark hasn’t had double digit sacks in the two years he has been in Kansas City. He did have a great playoff run on route to the Chiefs Super Bowl win in 2019, however. He closed off all of those games with a sack, including the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately for Clark, some of the lack of production could be coming from him battling injuries since he has been with the Chiefs. He was dealing with nerve issues in his neck and arms and stomach issues. The nerve issues were causing him to losing feeling in his fingers. The stomach issues were causing him to lose weight and not maintain his playing weight.
It seems those issues are behind him and he is fully healthy. Clark and Jones are the staples along the front and the line will be as good as those two are. Interestingly enough, Jones is going to be kicked out to defensive end at times this year. This is really only able to happen because of the signing of defensive tackle Jarran Reed and Tershawn Wharton performing so well his rookie year.
The interior of the line is the strength of the line with Derrick Nnadi and Kahlen Saunders rounding out the bunch. Reed is coming over from Seattle after they shockingly released him this offseason. The last year him and Clark were teamed up in Seattle, Reed had 10.5 sacks.
The Reed signing is going under the radar somehow, but shouldn’t be. This gives the Chiefs a formidable rotation along the interior and allows Jones to kick out to edge, where they are thin.
To combat that thinness at the edge they also decided to bring back edger rusher Alex Okafor.
Okafor has played in 21 games in two seasons with the Chiefs. He has eight total sacks in that time. Other edge rushers they are bringing back include Taco Charlton, Mike Dana, Tim Ward and Demone Harris.
Charlton’s season was cut short last year with injury, but he was starting to come on as a threat on the edge opposite Clark. They will not be able to keep all of these players on the 53 man roster. Harris and Ward are likely on the outside looking in because the Chiefs also invested a fourth round pick at the position in Joshua Kaindoh.
Kaindoh is an extremely raw prospect from Florida State who flashes great size and linear athleticism at the position. He was highly touted coming out of high school, but never hit his full stride in college. He played for three different staffs and battled injuries while at Florida State. He has the size and power to be a productive edge defender at the pro level.
There is going to be some specific roles for each player because of the versatility presented along the edge. Jones will have his role there, but so will Okafor, Dana, Charlton, and Kaindoh. Combined with the interior the expectations are high for this bunch.
There are going to have to anchor a defense that is lacking experience at the corner back position and doesn’t having great linebacker play behind them.
The Chiefs have high expectations for themselves once again this year and they should. No position group is void of these expectations. The defensive line needs to perform better than they have the past few years as a group and they will.