The Kansas City Chiefs have major vulnerabilities up front on their defensive line. Will they be able to figure things out this season?
Through the first three weeks of the season, it’s clear that the defensive line is a massive problem for the Kansas City Chiefs. Now, many Chiefs fans will argue the entire defense needs to improve, which is true, but it’s not that simple.
Over the past few years, the Kansas City Chiefs have invested heavily in the defensive line and have seen no improvement. In fact, 24.75% of the Chiefs salary cap is tied up in the line, which equates to $46,630,728, according to Spotrac.
Currently, in 2021, the Chiefs are spending more money on the defensive line than any other team in the NFL.
You’d think spending all that money would pay off, but you’d be horribly wrong.
The Kansas City Chiefs have always had trouble stopping the run, but we’ve seen no improvement whatsoever. Opposing teams are averaging 160.3 rushing yards per game, all while dropping 31.7 points per game.
So far this season, the Kansas City Chiefs have the 30th overall defense, according to ESPN, which quite simply isn’t good enough.
Although, the lack of pressure up-front is the bigger problem. The defensive line has only recorded three sacks this season. Outside of Chris Jones, who can get to the quarterback? That is a question the Chiefs are still trying to answer.
Here’s what the defensive line depth chart looks like:
Frank Clark, who accounts for 13.69% of the entire salary cap, has been an overwhelming disappointment throughout his career with Kansas City. Mike Danna, a 5th round draft pick in 2020, isn’t a starting-caliber defensive end.
Alex Okafor, who was initially let go by the team earlier this offseason, has been absolutely plagued by injuries. Derrick Nnadi, drafted in 2018, has been good at stopping the run but offers next to nothing in terms of pass-rush. Jarran Reed, signed during the offseason, was praised for his ability to force pressure in Seattle, but so far has done little to help the Kansas City Chiefs.
Khalen Saunders, who was a high draft pick from an FCS school, hasn’t panned out in the NFL. Joshua Kaindoh, who was drafted this past offseason, is a developmental player that had a disappointing college career. Finally, Tershawn Wharton, who had a solid 2020 season, has been non-existent this year.
The Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff thought that moving Jones from defensive tackle to edge would solve everything. Unfortunately, Jones can’t make up for the lack of quality pass-rushers on this team. Don’t get me wrong, he’s racked up 2 sacks in 3 games, but I believe he’d be a much more dominant force back inside. However, Jones will likely be stuck as an edge rusher because nobody else can step up.
Kansas City Chiefs: Defensive line seems to be a huge issue this season
I ultimately believe that’s the problem. The Kansas City Chiefs just don’t have the personnel on the defensive line. Although, I’m more disappointed in the Chiefs’ front office for failing to do anything to correct the problem.
During NFL free agency, Brett Veach just watched from the sidelines as all the pass-rushers signed elsewhere. You even had a shot at signing Melvin Ingram III and Justin Houston, but it seems like pride got in the way. The coaching staff firmly believed they had enough at the position group, which was just a poor assessment of talent.
The Chiefs now must rely heavily on blitz packages and the secondary to force pressure. Which has worked in the past, but it’s not consistent. The only way to force turnovers is pressure. If your 4-man rush can’t get to the quarterback, you simply won’t win very many games.
That’s just the harsh reality of the situation.
I think most of Chiefs Kingdom has been disappointed in this defensive line. Which is a fair criticism due to their performance. I’m in no way saying they can’t improve, but it’s going to be difficult. Someone is going to have to step up and say enough is enough.
Although, if anyone can figure it out, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs.