Welcome to our Other Side series, where we explore an alternative to a common Chiefs take.
In our new series, we take a contrarian position, arguing the other side of the takes we may be seeing in social media and from national pundits on the Kansas City Chiefs. This week, we’re taking on the assumption that the Chiefs have a “hole” at defensive end.
The current prevailing thought: The Chiefs need to add a veteran pass rusher this offseason.
The other side: They already have a solid rotation.
The offseason is a nonstop news cycle of rumors, transactions and predictions. With every Twitter refresh, we’re expecting to see the Chiefs making moves to strengthen the next perceived weaknesses on the roster. One such move we’ve been anticipating for months is the addition of a veteran EDGE player to start opposite Frank Clark.
Pass rush is arguably the most important aspect of the defense, more important than pass coverage or run defense. With the Chiefs’ limited investment in the cornerback position and question marks at linebacker, it’s critical that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo find ways to get to the quarterback and make life easier on the back end of the defense. So it only makes sense that people expect to have two stud defensive ends on the roster bringing pressure on every down.
The Chiefs have met with veterans, such as Melvin Ingram, but otherwise, they haven’t pulled the trigger on a significant addition at the EDGE position.
Most fans and pundits would agree that it’s a significant hole on the roster. But what if it isn’t?
If you look at the depth chart and what the Chiefs have done, there’s a path to success that doesn’t include another significant EDGE addition. First, they brought back Taco Charlton, a player that showed some serious pass rush ability in a limited sample size in 2020. They also returned Tim Ward, a massive defensive end that logged a sack and five tackles against the Chargers in Week 17. Ward is a player the Chiefs have kept around through a “redshirt” season in 2019, and they gave him a chance to develop in 2020. Perhaps it’s time for Ward to get real snaps on the field?
Then, in the draft, the Chiefs waited until pick 144 to select Joshua Kaindoh. He’s an ideal fit for what they like to do with the defense but had limited production in college. That, along with some injuries, points to a player who the Chiefs don’t expect to be a full-time starter in year one. If there weren’t any other options on the roster, that would be an issue. But, Kaindoh is a pick with an eye on the future.
For the present, the Chiefs added defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who projects as the key to this whole puzzle. Not only is he a threat from the interior of the defense — where he had 6.5 sacks last year, and a career-high of 10.5 in 2018 — but his presence also gives Spagnuolo options. Pass rush isn’t just about the end positions, Reed and undrafted standout Turk Wharton can bring heat from the interior of the defense along with Chris Jones.
Much has been made about Jones “switching to defensive end.”
I do think that is overstating the situation, and that Jones will still be a defensive tackle for the majority of his snaps. But his ability to play outside certainly adds another intriguing option on the EDGE. A leaner Chris Jones, with a full offseason to work on defensive end techniques could make some noise from a number of spots.
One could imagine a rotation at the defensive end position that includes Jones on early downs, Charlton in obvious passing situations (with Jones inside on those downs) and Ward getting some snaps as well. We have yet to mention Mike Danna, who was quietly impressive as a rookie, and Kaindoh, who could work his way into playing time as the season goes on.
That as many as five competent players to rotate along with Frank Clark at the two EDGE positions. There’s also the aforementioned interior pass rush and the blitzing tendencies of Spagnuolo (L’Jarius Sneed and Tyrann Mathieu are members of Sack Nation). Their comfort level with the pass rush potential on the roster could also be a reason they released Kamalai Correa before they even get to training camp.
There are many signs that the Chiefs don’t feel they need to make a splash at the defensive end position. We’ll see if they were correct in that assumption or not, once the season gets underway.