The Chiefs 2022 Projected Starting Defense
Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus
Keaton Huff @KeatonTheKicker
The Chiefs made it known after the AFC Championship game that there were going to be major changes this offseason as we saw the super talented team we have come to know get exposed because of major holes in the roster. Of those holes Corner and Defensive line were the most glaring. After the Tyreek Hill trade it seemed almost as if the Chiefs were in a hole they wouldn’t be able to dig out of. That was until the draft came around and everyone realized why Brett Veach is paid the big bucks. After two absolute steals in the first round in Trent McDuffie and George Karlaftis, we could begin to see holes from last year’s roster filled. In this article I am going to highlight the starting defense and how it compares to last year.
Starting on the Defensive line we have Frank Clark. Although he isn’t the pass rusher the Chiefs thought they were getting when he was traded, he does play above average in the run game which is a plus. Along with this he took a major pay cut to stay with the team this offseason where he will look to improve to gain another contract after this year. Look for Clark to have more of an effect than he did last year with this new motivation.
At defensive tackle Chris Jones is one of the bright spots on this defense. Although he had a down year last year with only 9 sacks, Chiefs fans must remember he played out of position for half the season. The switch to defensive end was a mistake that was corrected maybe even a little too late. With the weight loss Chris Jones had to undergo to play this position it makes sense to think he will improve next season.
At the second defensive tackle position the Chiefs brought back a solid run defender in Derrick Nnadi. Although he will never impress in his pass rushing ability, he brings experience and a solid player back to the Chiefs. This could be a position the Chiefs could look to improve upon with solid options still left at this position such as Akeim Hicks.
Opposite of Frank Clark, George Karlaftis will most definitely be a starter this coming season. The only knock on George Karlaftis in the draft and a reason he fell to 30 was that people viewed his ceiling as lower than some of the other defensive linemen. However people also viewed him as one of the most pro ready players in this draft which is something that the Chiefs needed. At only 21 years old it will be interesting to see how he develops his pass rushing moves. With some of the best hand fighting and bull rush skills in this year’s class, George should have a well above average season and be a major upgrade from last year’s group.
With the addition of Leo Chanel, the Chiefs linebacking core looks to be one of the best and most athletic in the league. This is something we wouldn’t have been able to say last season. At weakside or (WILL) linebacker Willie Gay will most certainly improve this season after playing well last season. Willie will play more in coverage than anything else which he has proven he is more than capable of doing while also bringing a level of athletic ability any team would love to have.
In the middle Nick Bolton will take over the role that was played by Hitchens last season. This should be viewed as a major upgrade because Anthony Hitchens struggled badly last season in coverage and run defense. Nick Bolton will be able to play the position he was drafted to play and what he played in college which should make him even more comfortable. One of the best run stuffing linebackers in the league last year should look to have an even better performance this season.
At strong side or (SAM) linebacker, newly acquired Leo Chanel will take the place that Nick Bolton played last season. Leo was a tackle for loss monster last season so it will be interesting to see how his outstanding run defending trait translates to the NFL. In a game against Iowa he was able to take over the game and even flashed some great pass rushing ability against first round center and possibly one of the best center prospects of all time Tyler Linderbaum who was drafted by the Ravens in the first round.
Moving to the Safety room Justin Reid will be an impact player moving forward at strong safety. Although the Chiefs lost Tyrann Mathieu last season, it was clear that the Chiefs wanted to get more physical and stout against the run which was something Tyrann was not doing well last season. Although his coverage ability will be missed, Justin is a bigger and more physical player that should help bolster the run defense this year.
At Free Safety Juan Thornhill is another solid starter that should improve as well coming off a full season from tearing his ACL. There was a major power struggle this season which saw Juan be taken off the field in favor of Daniel Sorenson which rarely proved to be the correct decision. In his contract year, Juan could really take it up a level especially seeing the Chiefs drafted another safety in the second round named Bryann Cook who is ultra athletic. Bryann isn’t projected to be a starter however he will play often due to the high usage of three safeties that coach Spags loves to use.
Corner will be the last position covered in this article and one that could still look to gain some players before the offseason is over. Although the Chiefs drafted a lot of corners Veach made it very clear that it is likely that not all of them will make the team. He mentioned that the reason so many were taken later in the draft was because they didn’t believe they could get free agent corners to sign due to the competition that there will be at the position. Some names such as James Bradberry would be a great addition and one that Chiefs fans should keep an eye on in the coming weeks. However if the season started today the Chiefs would be rolling with Trent McDuffie and Rashad Fenton as the outside corners. Many projected for McDuffie to play inside his rookie season like he did in college but Veach made it clear in the post draft presser they want him to play outside on opposing teams best wide receivers. For a guy who excelled in college allowing the fewest coverage yards in all of football this should be a big upgrade. Sneed who was also a star on this defense will keep his role as the slot corner and could play some outside this season depending on if the Chiefs like him there.