Who will emerge opposite Frank Clark for the Chiefs defensive line?

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images) /

The Chiefs are hoping someone emerges from the pack opposite Frank Clark.

The Kansas City Chiefs employ one of the very best in the business on one side of the line. The postseason run showcased by Frank Clark provided more than enough proof as to why general manager Brett Veach moved heaven and earth in order to bring in the former Seattle Seahawk to anchor the defensive line. Now the question is: who will star opposite him?

The Chiefs aren’t short on options for the other defensive end spot mirroring Clark, but not a single one of them is a sure thing at this point. The Chiefs are in better shape than other teams with similar questions given the variety of players they could put into that role, but it will be interesting to see who begins the season as the starter and who might be earning the most snaps at season’s end?

Alex Okafor is the obvious name to lock in at defensive end. He was signed to play that very role last year in free agency, and was given a contract that reflects those expectations. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to count on a full season’s worth of games given Okafor’s injury history. Last year, he played in 10 games for K.C. before ending the season on IR with a torn pectoral.

Tanoh Kpassagnon is likely the next man up if Okafor is injured or shows himself to have a more limited ceiling than other (read: younger) players. Kpassagnon is a physical specimen with incredible length and athleticism for his size, a combination of potential reflected in the second round investment made in him by previous general manager John Dorsey.

Speaking of second round picks, Breeland Speaks is still as much of a question mark as he was when current GM Brett Veach traded up to get him in his first ever draft class. A positional misfit in Bob Sutton’s defense, the Chiefs can only hope that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can find productive ways to use Speaks as he returns from a season lost to injury.

With two former second round choices, it seems silly that the Chiefs don’t have this position filled. Yet Kpassagnon’s career high is 4 sacks (last season) and there’s a reason the Chiefs signed Okafor in the first place—because in-house options weren’t dependable enough heading into a new year.

As for the longshots, let’s just admit they are in this category for a reason. A lot of ink has been spilled (figuratively speaking) about Taco Charlton’s addition to the Chiefs, but two teams have already cast the former first rounder aside, so let’s keep expectations manageable here. Mike Danna was a surprise in this year’s fifth round, so he could shock fans even more by earning significant playing time. Tim Ward flashed last preseason, and Demone Harris looked nice in a four-game audition in 2019.

Like we said, the Chiefs have options. What they do not have at this point is any definitive answer. That’s no real cause for concern. Every roster has concerns and outright needs and defensive end is in much better shape than even other positions on defense. It will be interesting to see who earns snaps early and how that might change as the season goes on.

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