The Chiefs have worked extensively to improve the defense. That all starts up front with the defensive line. There may be even more rotating this year, compared to the last few years. While there is some fine depth additions, there is one major addition that is the most exciting. The Chiefs defensive line will now feature Frank Clark. Clark has continued to gain steam as a pass rusher and pressuring opposing quarterbacks. His energy is exciting and the Chiefs are hoping it is contagious for the rest of the defensive line.
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Defensive Linemen on the current roster: Frank Clark, Chris Jones, Alex Okafor, Derrick Nnadi, Breeland Speaks, Emmanuel Ogbah, Xavier Williams, Khalen Saunders, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Justin Hamilton, Robert McCray, Joey Ivie IV, Hunter Dimick, Cavon Walker
The duo of Frank Clark and Chris Jones should open up plenty of sack opportunities across the board. Clark has amassed 35 career sacks in 62 games. Meanwhile, Jones has 24 career sacks in 48 games. The rush moves and power moves each guy uses to get to the QB can be unique. Clark wins by his stunts and steps around the blockers, and Jones can win with his strength. During his time in Seattle, Clark was used in multiple spots on the defensive line. That could be a big advantage for the Chiefs this season, if done correctly. The pace at which each guy plays with, along with that aforementioned energy is what the Chiefs are counting on for the defensive line to succeed.
The added size Kansas City’s depth has along the defensive line this year is a bonus. Guys like Alex Okafor, Emmanuel Ogbah, Derrick Nnadi, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Khalen Saunders aren’t just impressive with size, however. All can surprise you with their speed out in space. Following an injury last season, Ogbah is still looking to regain form. Subsequently, I think he can surprise some with his speed.
On the other hand, speed isn’t everything for this Chiefs defensive line. These five players are all looking to fit Steve Spagnuolo‘s scheme and play in multiple fronts or stunts. Okafor and Ogbah both have some experience in that style already. It will be exciting to see Kpassagnon finally get a chance this year. His training camp performance finally started to turn some heads. While the additions may take time to gel, this may be the deepest defensive line the Chiefs have had in the Andy Reid era.
Breeland Speaks was looking to have an improved sophomore campaign. First, he got bigger and could have been used at defensive end, as well as on the interior. In the second preseason game though, Speaks leg was clipped when going for a sack. Early reports suggested a hyperextended knee.
As a result, that is not the case for Speaks. He will be going to have surgery to repair his MCL or meniscus. Further, reports tell us that these MCL injuries are generally rare. Recovery will take a long time, with a likely three month time window. Based on that, I would assume the Chiefs will place Speaks on injured reserve. Certainly, I believe that he would be eligible to return late in the season.
I believe the Chiefs will carry eight players on the defensive line. I could see Kansas City carrying nine defensive linemen. But, more depth may be needed at linebacker or cornerback. Along with the players mentioned above, I think the final spot comes down to Xavier Williams or Justin Hamilton. At this point, Williams seems to have the upper hand on Hamilton. During last season, he was important in trying to stop short runs up the middle. Having some increased help on the inside, may also benefit Williams’s performance this year.
Hamilton has been with Kansas City the last two years. Each year, he has really only seen the field late in the season. Consequently, there’s better depth along the defensive line. And, the Chiefs just don’t have the roster space to carry Hamilton this season.
Final Depth Chart:
DE: 1) Frank Clark 2) Tanoh Kpassagnon
DT: 1) Chris Jones 2) Xavier Williams
DT: 1) Derrick Nnadi 2) Khalen Saunders
DE: 1) Alex Okafor 2) Emmanuel Ogbah
That will conclude our roster predictions for the Chiefs defensive line. Up next, we move our predictions over to the linebackers. Be sure to stay tuned to Full Press Coverage for more great sports and NFL content.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.