Welcome back to part two of the, “Questions and Answers,” tetralogy regarding the Kansas City Chiefs’ in season performance. Since there are four parts to this article, I had to research what comes after trilogy, and this is what it is! The Chiefs are looking different than the previous five seasons with Mahomes at the helm. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Without a doubt, it is too early to determine that. We will look at some issues we discussed in part one of the series and see how things have progressed. After that, we will look at current grades given to each side of the ball.
Let’s start with the offensive line. We all know the interior three are the unbreakable force and key to the success of protecting Patrick Mahomes. In part one, we discussed the offensive tackles being the two biggest question marks for the offensive line. With one-third of the regular season behind us, the biggest question mark on the offensive line is still the tackle positions. At this point, Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor are on pace to be the most penalized tackles in football history (at least is seems that way). Regarding Donovan Smith, he gets beaten to the inside by speed rushers, but his level of play has been acceptable regarding the amount of money he is being paid by the Chiefs.
On the flip side, Jawaan Taylor has not performed well this season. Granted, the NFL has made an example of him regarding his early jumps on the snap of the ball, and him being lined-up in the backfield. With that said, he has corrected his alignment and has adjusted to how quickly he gets off the ball on the snap. Even if you throw those penalties out, he has been a holding machine. If you go back to the Lions game, he and Donovan Smith’s holding penalties played a major factor in that loss. I give the offensive line a B+ at this point in the season. It hasn’t been bad, but it can be a lot better.
Staying on the offensive side of the ball, the Chiefs’ receiving core has been average this far into the season. There was a litany of drops in the first game of the season, but that issue seems to be a problem of the past. I will say that Rashee Rice has made some significant strides in the last three games, and he is poised to be a significant contributor down the stretch. As for the rest of the receivers, they just haven’t done anything to stand out or separate themselves from the pack. They have just been, well, average at best. The latest transaction for the Chiefs only reaffirms this notion. The Kansas City Chiefs have sent two late round draft picks to the New York Jets to reacquire Mecole Hardman. With the Chiefs ranking in the lower half of the NFL in red zone efficiency, Hardman will be a good addition for an offense looking for some added ammunition for a post season run. I give the wide receiving core a C+ thus far this season.
Now we get to the defense. By far, the biggest surprise of the season. If we could go back three months earlier, there is no one that would say with confidence that the Kansas City Chiefs would have a fop five defense. Seven games in, the Chiefs are 6-1 with a top five defense. Thus far, the biggest surprise has been the defensive line. Viewed by many as the weak link of the defense (me in particular), the defensive line has been outstanding.
It is obvious that Chris Jones being back in the lineup is game changer. He is averaging almost one sack per game and continues to be the biggest issue for opposing offensive lines. Without a doubt, he is not alone this year. A surprise to most, Chris Jones has a host of game wreckers that are interchangeable for the Chiefs’ defense this year. Mike Danna has been an absolute force this year anywhere they position him on the defensive line. Also, George Karlaftis has continued his maturation in setting the edge and pressuring the quarterback. With that said, the Chiefs received an even greater boost to that defensive line when their top offseason defensive acquisition became available after serving a six-game suspension. Charles Omenihu made his presence and impact felt immediately. Omenihu recorded a sack and multiple pressures against the Chargers offensive line and Justin Herbert.
At this point, the only weakness of the defensive line appears to be in the run game. The Chiefs’ defense is allowing a little over 105 yards rushing a game. Up to this point in the season, this has not cost the Chiefs, but it will be a situation to watch as the season continues. Typically, teams that have experienced success versus Kansas City have been able to keep Patrick Mahomes on the sideline by running the ball and running the clock. A good example of this was in the Super Bowl when the Eagles kept the ball away from the Kansas City offense for the majority of the first half. By doing so, they were able to dominate the time of possession and limit the Chiefs’ touches. This allowed the Eagles’ defense to keep the Chiefs offense out of rhythm. Once the Chiefs’ defense stiffened, the Chiefs’ offense took over and the rest is history. I give the Chiefs defensive line an A thus far this season.
Finally, the Chiefs’ linebacking core and defensive backfield have played outstanding to this point in the season. The linebackers have been all over the field. Nick Bolton has battled injury all season long and appears to be out for a minimum of two months. This is making the Drew Tranquill signing all the more impressive and important. With that said, Willie Gay and Drew Tranquill will be able to anchor the defense in Bolton’s absence. I give the linebacking core an A grade at this point in the season.
The defensive backfield may be the most stacked area of the entire defense. With all of those rookies now being sophomores, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is able to dive deep into his bag of mischief and bring pressure from anywhere on the field. To say the least, this is an issue for opposing offenses. Couple the level of experience with athletes all over the defense, Spagnuolo is able to disguise who he’s bringing, how many he’s bringing, and where he’s bringing them from. This has allowed the defensive backfield to dominate to this point in the season. I give the defensive backfield an A grade at this point.