Three Moves the Chiefs Can Make to Improve on Defense

There's a path to improvement for the Chiefs' defense, but it's going to take some time and effort.

Everyone knows how much the Kansas City Chiefs' defense has struggled this season. Just in case you need a refresher, let's take a closer look.

Through five games, albeit against some quality opponents, the Chiefs hold a 2-3 record. A large part of that has been due to a defense that ranks dead last in scoring, allowing 32.6 points per game. The team's run and pass defenses both rank 29th in the league from a yards surrendered perspective. No matter how you slice it, it hasn't been pretty. 

It doesn't stop there, though. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's unit is currently giving up 7.1 yards per play, which is the worst average in the league. It's also the worst average in league history. Conner Christopherson and Mark Van Sickle of Arrowhead Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to discuss whether there are ways the group can improve. Here are the top three changes I'd make in the immediate future. 

Start Juan Thornhill

Heading into the 2021 season, the Chiefs seemed to be excited about the progress of safety Juan Thornhill. The third-year man was well over a year removed from his torn ACL and had a newfound confidence that was primed to see him have success this year. Despite that, there's something that's held him back.

Daniel Sorensen had quite possibly his worst game as a professional on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, and it was just a microcosm of what's been his worst season as a professional. Thornhill has received 40-plus percent of snaps in each of the last two weeks, but that isn't enough. No one outside the Chiefs organization is exactly sure why the athletic and youthful defensive back isn't on the field more often than an aging and struggling veteran, but something has to give way here. Thornhill should be starting. His infusion of talent on the back end of the Chiefs' defense is much-needed.

Keep Rashad Fenton's Role Important

In his first game back after suffering a concussion in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Chargers, cornerback Rashad Fenton returned with a vengeance on Sunday. He was one of the team's most productive corners in coverage and even had an interception that was called back due to a roughing the passer penalty. He didn't look very rusty at all, instead settling back into the groove he's always been in.

For some reason, Fenton has always flown under the radar in Chiefs circles. He's quietly been one of the team's steadiest options. After letting Bashaud Breeland leave via free agency and with Charvarius Ward still banged up, that high floor is much-needed. Fenton played in 96% of the defensive snaps last week, and that needs to continue moving forward. Until he struggles, Fenton should rank high on the Chiefs' depth chart at cornerback. 

Alter the Chris Jones Plan

When the Chiefs signed defensive tackle Jarran Reed, it was a move that allowed them to move Chris Jones to the outside on more than just a sporadic basis. Jones was excited about the move, the team seemed to buy into it, and a great training camp-preseason combo certainly fueled that hype train even more. Five games into the 2021 campaign (four for Jones — he missed the Bills game), and there have been mixed results.

On some reps, Jones looks unstoppable. His blend of length and strength on the edge is rare. On other reps, and even for entire stretches of in-game action, he looks confused and outmatched. He's been battling a wrist injury and is still relatively early in his transition to a majority defensive end, but the Chiefs should get that split closer to 50/50. Taking advantage of individual matchups and putting Jones where he's bound to be most successful should take precedent over hiding the team's lack of edge depth. It isn't time to completely abandon the Jones-on-the-outside experiment, but altering it may help.

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