Admittedly, when the Kansas City Chiefs' plan for Chris Jones to spend some of his time as a defensive end was announced, I was a bit skeptical. Now, it's hard to be anything but intrigued.
At the beginning of the offseason, the Chiefs were a bit shallow on the outside. Frank Clark wasn't going anywhere but opposite him, there wasn't a ton of starting-caliber talent. At the end of March, the team signed defensive tackle Jarran Reed. By adding Reed into the fold, it opened the door for Jones to be more flexible along the defensive line.
Joshua Kaindoh was added via the 2021 NFL Draft, although he's several months — if not longer — away from being a major contributor. Alex Okafor was re-signed and figures to be reliable depth at the position (as long as he can stay healthy). Sam Hays of Arrowhead Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to explain how although they didn't add a star defensive end this offseason, the Chiefs may have partially acquired one with Jones.
Through two preseason games, the defensive-tackle-turned-half-defensive-end Jones has a pair of sacks — one in each game. He's spent time both on the outside and at his traditional three-technique alignment, achieving good success at both spots. His run defense has long been a talking point for critics but on the outside, he looks surprisingly comfortable thus far. It's a small sample size, but Jones is thriving.
There was some worry that losing nearly 20 pounds wasn't going to be quite enough for Jones to maintain an athletic advantage as a defensive end. To this point, he's won with a combination of strength on the outside and speed on the inside. It's the best of both worlds for a player who has excessive amounts of both traits. Jones moves extremely well for his size and can overpower offensive linemen regardless of his pre-snap alignment.
The emergence of players like Khalen Saunders and Tershawn Wharton this preseason may also allow the Chiefs to keep Jones fresh. He's dealt with injuries in the past and a healthy 2021 campaign could go a long way towards recording double-digit sacks. He's healthy, he's in shape, he's locked in and he appears to have a decent grasp on working from the outside already. That's a scary sight for the NFL.
Don't get me wrong: Jones still has work to do. The body of work this year is also incredibly minute. With that said, if preseason weeks one and two were foreshadowing what's to come, the Chiefs' unorthodox plan with Jones may pan out even better than they'd originally hoped.
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