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New York Giants Week 8 Opponent First Look: Kansas City Chiefs Defense

Let's take a look at the names we need to know on the Kansas City Chiefs defense.

The weak point of the Kansas City Chiefs is their defense, as led by Steve Spagnuolo, a very familiar face for the New York Giants. The unit has been missed star edge rusher Chris Jones for a couple of games, making a poor defense even worse.

On the season, the Chiefs defense ranks 27th in scoring, allowing 29 points per game. They are allowing the 28th most yards per game (404 yards). They allow the 26th most passing yards (275 yards per game), and they rank 27th in rush defense (128 yards/game).

The ineptitude of the defense has put more pressure on quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense. If the Chiefs' defense continues to be this poor, their chances of making a legitimate playoff run diminishes.

Giants' fans know Spagnuolo's ability to adjust, and anything can happen from Week 8 till the end of the season, but this unit is a work in progress at best. They assembled a great game against Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heineke on the road but completely regressed against Tennessee last week, albeit the offense was the main issue in that game.

Here's the depth chart.

Defensive Line

Spagnuolo uses a lot of four-down fronts and isn't scared to go light in pass-rushing situations. We all remember and love the NASCAR package he brought to the Giants in 2007.

Well, the Chiefs have Khalen Saunders, a 6'0 324 pound player who uses great leverage and strength in the trenches for rundowns. He's not just a two-gap brick type of player; he can move laterally down the line of scrimmage well. He doesn't offer much as an interior pass rusher and isn't on the field in many obvious passing situations.

Derrick Nnadi sees more action in passing situations, but he's not a true pass rusher either. Nnadi is another big body that combines heavy hands with a low profile. He's not a great athlete but a difficult player to move on the line of scrimmage.

Jarren Reed is the "pass-rushing" interior defensive lineman, but he's also a solid player against the run. It's his first year in Kansas City, but he had two very productive pass-rushing seasons in Seattle, where he had 6.5 sacks last year and 10.5 three years ago. He has yet to record a sack this season in 176 pass-rushing snaps.

Tershawn Wharton is a part of their speed package. He's only 255-pounds, and he's 6'4". He has two games with three pressures and intercepted Taylor Heinicke two weeks ago. He is a quick player with solid hand usage.

23-year-old Michael Danna is a tweener edge/defensive lineman who also earns a solid snap share in this defense. According to Pro Football Focus, he has three sacks and 13 pressures this year. He's played over 30-snaps in every game this season, and he's versatile in terms of alignment.


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Frank Clark and Chris Jones are the Chiefs' prime edge players, but the latter has been dinged up. Still, this duo is one of the top pass-rushing tandems in the league when fully healthy. Between the two, Jones has two sacks, both coming in Week 1 against Cleveland. Clark has yet to record a sack.

Jones does a great job converting speed to power, has excellent hand usage, and is one of the better power rushing defenders in the league. That doesn't mean he isn't quick. Clark has more of a bend/burst to his pass rush game, but he's also having a down season, by his standards. Even so, he's a dangerous player for both Giants tackles (Matt Peart and Nate Solder) to deal with.

Alex Okafor is a situational pass rusher who sometimes kicks inside and plays more than 25-snaps a game. Okafor had devastating lower-body injuries throughout his career but has done well bouncing back, despite being north of 30 years old. Okafor has nine pressures on the season and has yet to record a sack. (For reference, Lorenzo Carter has eight pressures with no sacks in comparable snaps.)


The linebacker position is a nice combination of speed and processing ability. Willie Gay Jr returned to action in Week 5 after being on Injured Reserve. He's quick, aggressive, hard-hitting, and still developing as a young player in reading his keys. He typically plays on the weak side while using his backside pursuit ability to make tackles from that direction.

Second-round pick Nick Bolton out of Mizzou has been a tackling machine for Kansas City. He is fourth in stop, according to PFF, and has proven to be a good football player in the middle of Spagnuolo's defense. He's not the most athletic linebacker, but he does, however, have incredible short-area quickness. He only has three missed tackles on the season through seven games.

Ben Niemann is a sure tackling early-down linebacker for the Chiefs. He's good when the defensive line holds up and allows Niemann to position himself to tackle. If the offensive line can climb cleanly to the second level, Niemann isn't the best for stacking and shedding. That could be an area to exploit if guards Will Hernandez and Matt Skura cleanly get up to the second level.


The corner room isn't great for the Chiefs. Their slot cornerback L'Jarius Sneed is a second-year player who may be their best overall cornerback in potential upside. He's quick, instinctive, and still developing. Playing slot is an unforgiving position.

On the outside, Chavarius Ward has just returned from an injury. He has allowed a less than 50 percent catch rate in 174 snaps this season. Twenty-four-year-old Rashad Fenton joins Ward and has played adequately this season. Fenton is another young cornerback who continues to ascend but who is still beatable.

Mike Hughes, the Vikings first-round pick in 2018, plays in sub-packages. Hughes was always a great athlete, but he's dealt with some bad injuries and hasn't developed as expected. His snaps have been dialed back with the return of Ward.


The Chiefs have an excellent trio at safety. Tyrann Mathieu is one of the best cover safeties who is incredibly smart and physical, despite his smaller frame. Daniel Sorenson has made gigantic plays for the Chiefs throughout the years. He is now 31-years-old, and there are mistakes in his film. He's not as athletic anymore, and his snaps have diminished as well.

Juan Thornhill is a quality safety that continues to develop. He's 26-years-old and can perform many of Spagnuolo's tasks. Expect to see all three safeties on the field at once, with Sorenson having the limited role of the three. 

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