Kansas City Chiefs gradecard: The defense

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 07: Linebackers Tamba Hali
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 07: Linebackers Tamba Hali /
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KANSAS CITY, MO – DECEMBER 13: Dontari Poe /

Defensive Line

Key Players On Depth Chart:
Allen Bailey
Jaye Howard
Dontari Poe
Chris Jones
Nick Williams
Rakeem Nunez-Roches

Positional Grade: A-

I thought about giving this group a B+ but ultimately this is the position group on defense that I really feel good about going into training camp this season. At a position where the Chiefs will use three starters in the base defense and only two in the sub package (which accounts for about 50% of the snaps) the Chiefs have three veteran players that are proven NFL starters, their top pick of the draft who has tremendous upside, and a couple other young players that could earn roles as well.

I would even go so far as to say that next to the running backs this is the position I feel the best about on the entire roster.

Dontari Poe is a Pro Bowl caliber nose tackle that eats up blockers on the inside. He may not have big stat lines but his presence makes the jobs of those around him so much easier. Last season Jaye Howard emerged as one of KC’s standout defensive performers. I’ll admit that I was shocked that the Chiefs were able to bring him back on a reasonable contract and think that he may just prove to be their best all around defensive lineman in 2016.

Allen Bailey is one of those underrated starters that most NFL fans don’t know but does a great job for KC. The three of them give the Chiefs a great starting trio in the base package which gives KC’s linebackers the freedom to make plays behind them.

The addition of rookie Chris Jones could make this group even better in 2016. Jones has the physical tools to be a playmaker in both the run and pass games. If he can adapt to the NFL game quickly and is able to rotate in regularly enough to spell the starters some it will benefit the entire defensive line. His quick release off the line may give Poe some rest in the sub package as I can see Jones and Howard being a nice pass rushing duo up front on clear passing downs.

When you mix in 26 year old Nick Williams (who was KC’s No. 5 defensive lineman in 2015) and 23-year-old Rakeem Nunez-Roches (who was a rookie draft pick last season) the Chiefs have some quality depth at the position with the upside to develop into one of the best units in the NFL.

Next up, the outside linebackers.

Next: Grading KC's Outside Linebackers