We know the Chiefs will go as far as Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Chris Jones will take them this year, but there are still key contributions needed from other areas of the roster.
This most recent playoff run alone included major moments from Chad Henne, Skyy Moore, and Joshua Williams, just to name a few.
Who are some unheralded Chiefs that need big seasons for Kansas City to reach the mountaintop once again? Here are three names I’m keeping a close eye on heading into training camp:
3 Chiefs That Need Big Seasons
Donovan Smith, LT
It goes without saying that protecting Patrick Mahomes’ blind side is important. After letting Orlando Brown Jr. walk, Kansas City appears comfortable welcoming Donovan Smith to the offensive line.
The 6’6″, 338 LB former Penn State Nittany Lion comes to the Chiefs after spending eight seasons in Tampa Bay, though he struggled relatively last year while battling through injuries.
Brown Jr. became one of the more divisive Chiefs players amongst the fan base and Smith will suffer a similar fate if he doesn’t perform. If he can return to the level that helped protect Tom Brady though, his acquisition will quickly look like one of the offseason’s best moves.
Bryan Cook, FS
Cook presumably steps into a starting role after Juan Thornhill left for Cleveland. The Chiefs have little depth at safety, so Cook needs a strong season if the defense is going to reach the heights fans dream of.
The former second-round pick had only 33 tackles last year but delivered one of the defining plays of the year in helping force an interception late in the AFC Championship game.
With ferocious tackling ability and a physical style of play, Cook will quickly become a fan favorite if he builds off that playoff run. If not, Kansas City’s secondary will routinely be challenged by the excellent passing attacks in the AFC.
George Karlaftis, DE
Karlaftis is expected to fill Frank Clark’s shark-sized shoes after a promising rookie season in which he compiled six sacks and delivered consistent pressure in the playoffs.
With Chris Jones frequently commanding double teams, Karlaftis will have every opportunity to get in the backfield. The 2022 first-round pick is a huge part of the Chiefs’ plans moving forward, and his growth is paramount to maintaining a strong defensive front that ranked second in sacks last season.
If Karlaftis struggles, it’ll put even more pressure on Jones and free-agent acquisition Charles Omenihu. Provided Karlaftis continues his development, Kansas City’s pass rush will be a force once again.
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