After going defensive-heavy in the 2022 Draft, the Chiefs are hoping this new unit is up to the task and finish the season as a top 10 defense.
There have been a lot of positive comments surrounding the young guys that joined the defense this year and also for those young guys who are returning and will have more prominent roles this upcoming season. One of the young stars on the team has been inside linebacker Nick Bolton. After losing Anthony Hitchens this offseason and the Chiefs going in a different direction, the defense will rely heavily on Bolton to be one of its key leaders. It will be a lot of responsibility put on the second-year pro this upcoming season, but Spagnuolo and Reid have been giving high praise to Bolton for how much he’s grown this offseason. Having veterans like Chris Jones and Frank Clark will help Bolton grow, but many do not see how this defense will become a top ten unit in the league.
I feel the Chiefs will be a middle-of-the-pack defense sitting in the top 15, but that is better than what happened last year. In the years the Chiefs had a top 15 defense with Mahomes at the helm, they went to two Super Bowls, winning one. Guys like first-rounders George Karlaftis and Trent McDuffie will have to step up this season and play well to contend in the AFC. Steve Spagnuolo knows it will take time for these young players to get adjusted to his defensive scheme, but he knows their athleticism will probably cover for their shortcomings.
The Chiefs also went out and signed some really fascinating replacements for the players they lost during free agency. The Chiefs signed Justin Reid to replace Tyrann Mathieu, Lonnie Johnson for Mike Hughes, and Jermaine Carter to replace Hitchens. All of these players play with speed and hit hard, which is what Spags loves to do. Reid is going to be a totally different player than Mathieu, he brings a physicality and has the range to cover a lot of different kinds of players. Lonnie is going to play the third corner/nickel in most situations and was always a solid cover while he was in Houston, you should expect him to start to begin the season. Jermaine Carter will be vitally important to play within the linebacker rotation, with Willie Gay being often injured and inconsistent at times, Carter will be a steadying presence to the group.
The defense for the Chiefs is going to be a lot different than the AFC contending unit they had been putting out since 2019. Chris Jones, Derek Nnadi, Willie Gay, and L’Jarius Sneed are the only starters who have played in a Super Bowl that are still on the team. A lot of turnover isn’t great for a unit that is trying to get back to another Super Bowl, but the last time the Chiefs did it, it was in the 2019 offseason and they went on to get their second ring in franchise history, so who knows how good they actually will be in 2022.
Fans, experts, and many who have paid attention to the Chiefs do not know how good or bad the defense will be in 2022. The losses of Tyrann Mathieu and Hitchens are big holes to fill for a potential Super Bowl contender, but if they can figure out how to play together, they might end their season in February instead of January. The defense will have a new look approach heading into pre-season but the upside going into the season is phenomenal and I believe the Chiefs are happy that many teams and fans do not know what to expect.
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