Chris Jones spending some time as a defensive end this season will undoubtedly help a group that was lacking in the talent department. That part-time transition wouldn't be possible without the Kansas City Chiefs doing their due diligence elsewhere, though.
The offseason addition of Jarran Reed initially seemed like more of a luxury than a necessity, but it now makes perfect sense. Having Reed in the fold allows Jones to garner some reps on the outside. The veteran defensive tackle recorded six-and-a-half sacks last season and should provide steady production on early downs while Jones works on the edge. Where things get interesting is on later downs.
In obvious passing situations, nose tackle Derrick Nnadi will come off the field and be replaced by a pass-rush specialist. When that happens, there is a clear path to a Jones-Reed interior alignment — one that should terrify opposing offensive lines. If one of them needs a break, Tershawn Wharton is looking to build on a successful rookie season and has the ability to play as a nontraditional defensive tackle.
As training camp continues, the Chiefs will continue to tinker with their lineups along the front four. Sam Hays of Arrowhead Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to analyze the defensive line as a whole. With that said, the interior personnel is the driving factor in what form the final defensive end depth chart will take.
Before Reed was signed, the Chiefs' defensive end picture was murky. Even after the re-signing of Alex Okafor, the group doesn't project to be great. Aside from Frank Clark and possibly Okafor, the cupboard is filled with specialists and inexperienced options. Mike Danna is primarily a run-defender and Taco Charlton is a pass-rusher who will likely do his damage on later downs. Joshua Kaindoh is still extremely raw.
Without Reed, the Chiefs would be stuck choosing from a somehwat depleted and inconsistent defensive end unit. With Reed, Jones can assist in solving that problem. Nnadi is a very reliable first and second down run-stuffing, gap-eating tackle and Wharton is an ideal high-effort weapon capable of filling in wherever he's needed. Building inside-out has put the Chiefs in a better spot.
It remains to be seen how Steve Spagnuolo will divvy up snaps to his defensive linemen. If Reed, Jones, Wharton and Nnadi have anything to say about it, they will be the straw that stirs the drink. Not only can they do their usual jobs at a high level, but some of them can impact the game — and their peers — in multiple ways.
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