It’s only the second game of the preseason, but already the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick looks like he could turn into the next pass-rushing star in Kansas City.
I wasn’t a fan of the tape I saw from George Karlaftis when he was playing for Purdue. I thought he looked slow, unexplosive, and lacked any real pass rush moves outside of a straight bull rush and just using his power. Typically guys who win with only power in college don’t pan out in the NFL, especially if they have short arms, which Karlaftis was proven to have, at only 32 and a half inches long. I thought it could be a Breeland Speaks situation all over again, that it was a case of “He fits Spag’s profile and can stop the run.”
We have yet to see him in a regular season game, but it looks like I’m wrong, and with any luck for the Chiefs hopefully, I was dead wrong.
It could still be all the terrible situations but I don’t think it will be anymore. What I have seen so far from Karlaftis in this preseason is a relentless pass rusher with much more juice than he had at Purdue, where he was focused on stuffing the run week in and week out.
His pass rush production at Purdue was only modest, but now through two season games, he has recorded two sacks and looks different as a player. Faster, more juice off the snap, more flexibility, and balance around the edge, but the one thing that remains consistent is the high-powered motor.
Karlaftis has also shown better hand usage and has been working to develop a counter move to his bull rush. I suspect we will still mostly see him stick to the power moves early this season, but watching his development in that aspect will be fun as the season progresses. We have seen him start to work in a chop/swim into his arsenal, both great counters for power. The swim can be effective for getting offensive linemen who are getting ready to brace to stop a bull rush to overcommit, while the chop is good for kicking down hands and throwing players off balance.
Speaking of balance the way that he is able to go from being double teamed, to sit down, stall his momentum while locating Went, and then attack while being held is ridiculous. It is apparent that he has put in a lot of time for stretching, but also working on his “get off” on the line of scrimmage. Quicker, and more agile, it makes sense now looking at what he was while at Purdue. When going against teams like Iowa and Michigan in the Big Ten who will want to run the ball 30 times a game, it would be more advantageous to be a larger player and focus more on brute force and power. Passing the ball is the name of the game in the NFL, so by working on quickness off the snap as well as the flexibility to bend the arc he is setting himself up nicely. He is also doing this all in a short period of time, less than a year removed from playing his last snap at Purdue.
The preseason is a time for hope and optimism, and while the production gained here will not count for anything come September it looks like it should be a sign of things to come. This is a city and a fanbase that knows a good pass rusher when they see one. Karlaftis looks like he may be next in line to wreck opposing backfields and electrify Arrowhead Stadium.