On our last edition of the Kansas City Chiefs Unsung Super Bowl Hero series, we talked about defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. He was a new face to the red and gold in 2019. Interestingly, that trend will continue during this edition of the series. One new face who was signed in free agency by general manager Brett Veach, was defensive end Alex Okafor. Notably, Kansas City gave him a three year deal for $24 million.
Now with a fiery and confident energy on the defense, Okafor provided a distinct mix with his new teammates. You had the vocal leaders, like Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones and Frank Clark. However, Okafor led more with effort and by example. This is not to say the words he spoke were not important. But, he provided an alternate layer to an altering defense. Let’s now look back on the unsung impact that Okafor brought to the table with the Chiefs.
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What were we expecting from Okafor entering his first campaign with the Chiefs? Most had him pegged as a true pass rusher. Others, thought he was going to be suited to stop both the run and pass. What ever most thought Okafor would do, it likely was not too ambitious. But keep in mind, this signing was coming off the heels of the Justin Houston and Dee Ford departures.
As far as a pass rusher, Okafor was viewed as more of power guy when leaving New Orleans to come to Kansas City. He was always real patient on identifying where each play was going. He was not ever a flashy player in New Orleans. That was definitely the case with the Chiefs. He did a fine job of being a consistent tackler in space. In his final year with the Saints, Okafor graded out better as a run defender. I would say he met his expectations again in 2019. He did notch five sacks in 10 games. Yet, he was the exact player the Chiefs had paid for to come to town.
Trials and Tribulations
As well as Okafor played this season, he went through trials and tribulations just like the team. He missed three games in the middle of the season. This was due to a nasty looking injury, where Okafor rolled his ankle against the Green Bay Packers. On this play, Aaron Rodgers was pressured outside of the pocket. Instead of going out of bounds, Rodgers cut towards the middle of the field. Okafor was basically caught in a difficult position and got hurt bad.
This was extremely unfortunate, because Okafor was just coming off a two sack game in Denver. It could have been worse, though. He would return against the Oakland Raiders for a lowered snap count. Afterwards, he and the entire defense shutdown the New England Patriots for a monumental road win. Okafor had a key sack when New England was inside the Kansas City ten yard line.
In the following game, Okafor registered another sack on Drew Lock of the Broncos. He got up and celebrated. However, this would be the final snap of his season. The injury that he suffered on this play, was a torn pectoral muscle. Just when things were going right for him at different times this season, the injury bug took its toll.
Change of the Guard
Okafor was important in helping the Chiefs reach their ultimate goal. Like Emmanuel Ogbah, he combined to stop the run and the pass in crucial moments. This two way type of ability, was different from past players over the course of Andy Reid‘s early years in KC. Additionally, his attitude fit the mold of the new leaders on that defense. Okafor had and knew what it took to get the job done, having been on winning teams before. Furthermore, he knew just what his job was as a part of this revamped squad.
Be on the lookout for more Chiefs offseason coverage. We will start rolling more draft prospect profiles out as the week goes on. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– 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.
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