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Derrick Nnadi Has Been an Unsung Defensive Piece for the KC Chiefs

In his sixth season in Kansas City, Nnadi has refound his early career form and helped fortify the Chiefs' defensive front.

The Kansas City Chiefs' defense is off to its best start in the Steve Spagnuolo era. It is largely due to the growth and development of young players like Trent McDuffie, L’Jarius Sneed, George Karlaftis and others, plus the continued All-Pro level play of Chris Jones. However, one piece has gone under the radar and has had a career resurgence this season. While Jones, Karlaftis and other defensive linemen have garnered attention for their pass rush production, Derrick Nnadi has been an impactful force in the middle of the defense on early downs.

Nnadi was a part of general manager Brett Veach’s first draft class. He was the only member who made it to a second contract in Kansas City. Though he made it to the second and third contracts, he’s only been signed to veteran minimum deals. His play dipped in his first contract season, hurting his market value around the league. However, the Chiefs still brought him back for the 2022 season. In that season, he had inarguably his worst year as a pro and had been relegated to a backup role on defense. Even with an evident decline in his play, the Chiefs decided to give Nnadi another chance to prove that he could return to his early career form. He worked to ensure that Kansas City would not regret giving him that opportunity.

In the offseason, Nnadi worked on his body and getting into proper physical shape. He added good weight to hold his ground in the middle of the defensive line, which has paid off so far for the Chiefs. Seven weeks into the season, he is outpacing his previous campaign and he has already surpassed it in some categories. The first thing that stands out is his stellar missed tackles rate. The former Florida State Seminole has yet to miss a tackle this season. As a front-line defensive member, not allowing ball carriers to get to the next level when you can stop them is huge. It puts the offense behind the sticks, playing into more favorable situations for the defense.

Another statistic that he’s already surpassed compared to the prior season is defensive stops. Pro Football Focus defines a defensive stop as a tackle that constitutes a ‘failure’ for the offense. Nnadi already has seven of those through seven games compared to only having five all last season. He has yet to record a tackle for loss on the season, but you’d have to think those are coming with his nonexistent missed tackle rate and his ability to make plays that put the opposing offense behind the eight ball. He’s also already recorded a batted pass, which the Chiefs' defensive coaches emphasize accomplishing if a player isn’t going to get to the quarterback.

Nnadi has had his bounce-back campaign while being the only actual nose tackle active every game day. Spagnuolo and the rest of the Chiefs' coaches put a lot on his plate to not only play well but also play most of the early-down snaps. That’s not typical for the nose tackle position, but Nnadi has accepted the challenge and succeeded in his role thus far. While the Chiefs have invested in other nose tackles, they believe in Nnadi’s ability to go out there and perform consistently. They will need him to continue to play at this level throughout the season as the defense looks to get even better moving forward.

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