The defensive front seven could feature first time Pro Bowlers in 2020
One of the most interesting battles for Kansas City during training camp will be in seeing who wins the starting job at defensive end opposite Frank Clark. One would expect that Alex Okafor sits in the driver’s seat for that position. Okafor was excellent for the Chiefs in nine games in 2019, recording five sacks and five tackles for loss in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s first season at the helm. Unfortunately, a pectoral tear ended his 2019 campaign or we could have already seen Okafor’s season-long impact.
Chiefs third year man Tanoh Kpassagnon emerged in the second half of 2019 and could push for the starting job, particularly if Okafor struggles in his return or looks hampered by the muscle tear in any way. In addition, Kpassagnon showed versatility on the inside and outside a season ago, so the team could prefer to keep him as rotational depth that can play anywhere.
Finally, the team signed Taco Charlton to compete for a job this offseason, and should he live up to the potential that led the Dallas Cowboys to using a first round pick on the former Michigan star in the 2017 draft, he could push for a substantial role in 2020.
Regardless, whomever emerges to play opposite Clark and alongside All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, who will likely be playing for a contact (on the franchise tag), will be in prime position for one-on-one battles all year. If they can take advantage, stay healthy, and put up a double-digit sack season, the starter could be in line for a Pro Bowl berth.
Much like the defensive end position, starting defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi benefits from planning for a deep and talented defensive line, and specifically from playing right next to Chris Jones. The third year pro from Florida State is not a pass rusher, really, and has only recorded one sack in 37 career games (including the playoffs).
But, Nnadi improved significantly over the course of the 2019 season as he gained comfortability in Spagnuolo’s new defensive set. If he continues that growth, and pushed to play closer to 65% of snaps (rather than 55% in 2019), he could be productive enough to earn some votes to the All-Star roster. This may be a long shot, but Nnadi’s potential is there.
Willie Gay, Jr.
By the end of training camp, the Chiefs second round selection of linebacker Willie Gay, Jr. will look like an absolute steal, and it will be evident that he is the most talented linebacker on the roster for Kansas City. Now the team does not have the best linebacking unit the world has ever seen—okay, it’s one of the worst in football—but the former former Mississippi State Bulldog is an electric athlete who will take over the unit and immediately make his presence felt in Kansas City.
Gay is the linebacking ballhawk the Chiefs have been looking for since Derrick Johnson left the team; he is the player the Chiefs hoped Anthony Hitchens or Dorian O’Daniel would be. He will be a bona fide stud, sooner rather than later. And, when he is, he’ll be a Pro Bowl lock for years to come.