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Kansas City Chiefs 2023 Preview – The Edge Rushers

We previewed the Interior of the Defensive line… We look at the outsiders of the defensive line.

(Photo by: Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Frank Clark’s decision to sign with the Denver Broncos for the upcoming 2023 season leaves a difficult-to-replace hole in the Kansas City Chiefs edge rusher corp. It’s a hole that some have speculated could be filled by their hometown first-round selection, Felix Anudike-Uzomah lining up as an edge rusher for the vast majority of his snaps at Kansas State over his collegiate career. Edge defender is a position that has many definitions especially if the scheme is a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. I define an edge defender as someone who can play anywhere from 3-4 base-end/5-tech all the way out to 9 tech.

The free agent signing period and draft came, saw, and conquered our timelines and now it’s up to the fans to sit back and watch their favorite teams selections; will they develop? How’s their situation? What can we expect? Just a few days ago, I released my preview of the interior of our line, so I figured I would throw my two cents about what we can expect from our edge group, so here are my thoughts on the Chiefs current EDGE players and the situations that befell them.

George Karlaftis:

Despite Clark leaving, the Chiefs have confidence in the 22-year-old George Karlaftis, who started all 17 games and finished with six sacks last year. Karlaftis’ rookie season got off to a slow start, but he ended the regular season on a tear with 5.5 sacks in his last seven games.

He couldn’t pinpoint a moment where everything clicked, but Karlaftis, who has been working out five days a week while also doing Pilates, yoga and even taking lessons from former Chiefs edge rusher great Tamba Hali this offseason, hopes to ride last year’s late-season momentum into 2023. Karlaftis offers them tremendous power and intensity from the edge. He can play on the interior as a pass rusher as well and working with Hali should help him to try to release from opposing tackles with a rip or spin move, showing he’s not afraid to reach out and engage them when the situation merits.

I expect Karlaftis to have better sack numbers in 2023. Tamba Hali’s influence would be beneficial to Karlaftis’ hand usage and understanding of leverage will make it very hard for opposing offensive linemen to win initial contact against him, and even harder to sustain a block on the defensive end. Couple that technical prowess with Karlaftis’ impressive athleticism and raw power, and you have by far one of the defensive linemen in the league.

Charles Omenihu:

The newly signed Charles Omenihu will be tasked to replace the snaps left by Carlos Dunlap. Last season, the 6-foot-5, 280 pound Omenihu had seven sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and 43 quarterback hurries in just 475 pass-rushing snaps. Omenihu is a versatile 4-3 power edge, modern 3-4 5 tech, and can play on the interior defensive line on passing downs. He can both one-gap penetrate and hold up as a two-gapper against offensive tackles. He has improved his repertoire of pass rush moves to go along with his nice bull rush, a high motor, and tremendous balance and short area quickness while being coached by former 49ers defensive coordinator and new Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans.

Another consideration is that the Chiefs now have two established starters at edge in Karlaftis and Omenihu. The likely solution is to kick either inside. He is a classic power edge/IDL who needs to use his bull rush more as it is excellent. He excels on twists and stunts. He can also play all over the defensive line. His high level outcome is similar to Chris Jones.

Michael Danna:

Danna’s 2022 campaign largely aligned with his previous two, but he did finish with career-high totals for both tackles and sacks. Danna racked up 27 tackles (nine solo), five sacks and two forced fumbles during the 2022 regular season.

Danna can play on the interior defensive line on pass rushing snaps but should play outside the tackles as run defender and a pass rusher on early downs. He has good balance, bend, body-control, and burst. As a pass rusher, he has a diverse set of initial moves but with Joe Cullen, he was able to add more counters. He’s entering the final season of his rookie contract in 2023 and should maintain a regular role in the lineup for the Chiefs once again and if he can continue to improve his technique he could be an even better player than he was in 2022. 

Felix Anudike-Uzomah:

Chiefs defensive coordinator – Steve Spagnuolo – expects the Lee’s Summit native to fill the void left by Clark’s absence to utilize his biggest strength – a natural ability to get after the quarterback as a pass rusher.

With a huge expectation, Anudike-Uzomah could be quite effective as a rookie. Needing time to develop at the NFL level, I can see Anudike-Uzomah explode onto the scene with his violent hand swat and some serious bend around the edge. His athletic and physical tools were always intriguing, but Anudike-Uzomah’s mental processing to recognize and exploit interior rush lanes left vacant by oversetting tackles is particularly impressive and it will help the other rushers like Jones, Karlaftis and Omenihu to get to their lanes. As Anudike-Uzomah continues to develop, we could be talking about one of the best young defensive ends in the NFL in a few years.

To me, he is a Day one starter, while leading rookies in sacks (He can potentially break DT’s rookie sack record). Could potentially be the best pass rusher on the Chiefs next to Jones.

B.J. Thompson:

The SFA rookie B.J Thompson provides the versatility to play both edge and off the ball linebacker. Thompson is an incredibly athletic, fast, and rangy piece for a defense that needs some retooling. Thompson’s length, movement skills in space, and flexibility make him a very unique tool for Spags and Joe Cullen.

Thompson can line up in the nickel ILB role, in the slot on TE/WR, or as a pass rushing LEO (left outside defensive end). Thompson’s range, pursuit, and burst would make him a scary blitzing weapon on twists and he is fluid enough in space to play man coverage on TEs. Thompson is a wonderful addition to a defense that likes to blitz, play man coverage, and of course get after the quarterback. The Chiefs found someone who will provide disruptive ability around a very talented front 7 that features Chris Jones, George Karlaftis, and Felix Anudike-Uzomah, If you’re a Chiefs fan, you should applaud this pick.

Final Thoughts:

The Chiefs nailed this draft and continue to build a quality roster that will contend their world title. I pity the tackles in the AFC West; not only do they have to account for the talent of Chris Jones, but now they have to worry about Omenihu, Anudike-Uzomah and Thompson. Talk about an ideal situation for Spags and Cullen. The additions of the three also helps the secondary of the Chiefs that can help cover up a secondary that possesses a lot of younger talent featuring L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie. Chris Jones, Mike Danna, George Karlaftis and now Charles Omenihu, Felix Anudike-Uzomah and B.J. Thompson means good luck to the AFC West tackles. 

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