When discussing the K.C. Chiefs pass rush in 2020, fans can’t help but be disappointed as the team ranked just 19th in sacks per game among all NFL teams despite the fact that the Chiefs have over $200 million tied up into their defensive line position group.
The Chiefs are the first team in NFL history to pay as much per year as they do on the defensive line and to not even have a pass rush (or run defense) that is in the top half of the league is a disappointment. That being said, many fans have pointed fingers as to who is at fault for not producing enough, and many of those seem to be pointed at defensive tackle Chris Jones.
When you look at Jones’ numbers such as sacks, tackles, tackles for loss, etc. then yes, you can make the argument that Jones was disappointing this season after earning his four-year $85 million extension, but judging those stats at face value isn’t fair to Jones.
Before going too in-depth, let’s just acknowledge that getting pressure and racking up sacks from the interior is extremely difficult compared to someone who plays on the edge. Jones is special as part of a new wave of defensive tackles who are true disruptors instead of just your gap-stuffing, occasional pushing of the pocket type of defensive tackle. What he has done so far in his career is not normal for someone who plays the position, and he has still been the best defensive tackle in football behind Aaron Donald for a couple years.
The Chris Jones disrespect from some fans has to stop.
While Jones didn’t have a big year in terms of sacks in 2020, he still had an amazing season. Why, you may ask? That’s because Jones was the Chiefs’ main source for the pass rush. Basically what I’m getting at is the Chiefs’ lack of an edge presence (looking at you, Frank Clark) has made Jones’ job 10x harder.
Back in 2018, when Chris Jones had a career-high 15.5 sacks, the Chiefs also had the highest pressure rate from the edge position that they’ve had in the last three years. The Chiefs have actually seen a steady decline in pressure rate from the edge position each year in the last three seasons and an even bigger decline in the postseason in the last three years as well. You know what else also declined in those same three seasons? Jones’ sack totals. He went from 15.5 sacks in 2018, to 9 in 2019, and then 7.5 in 2020.
Despite this drop in sacks, Jones has still been incredibly good at generating pressure and wrecking plays. In 2020, Jones had a 24.5% pressure rate which ranked 2nd in the NFL behind Aaron Donald of course. For reference, Frank Clark had a 9.8% pressure rate that ranked 53rd in the NFL and Alex Okafor wasn’t much better. In addition, Jones had 28 QB hits this past season which indicates he was affecting a lot of throws and getting to the quarterback pretty often.
It’s also important to note that Chris Jones is among the most double-teamed defensive lineman in all of football. The lack of edge presence that we mentioned is the reason for this. If you don’t have a true threat on the edge, then it allows offenses to focus their attention on Jones, thus all the double-teams Jones faced. Our friend Seth Walder, who writes for ESPN, produces these charts every season that show pass-rush win rate x double-team rate and, as you can see, Jones is double-teamed pretty often, yet still wins most of his snaps. Also included below is the defensive end chart in which you can see how the edge position for Kansas City compares to the defensive tackle spot:
Jones seems to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting for the Chiefs pass-rush. Anyone who thinks Jones didn’t play well in 2020 is kidding themselves. You can’t excuse Clark’s lack of sacks by saying there’s more to it than sacks but then use that same argument against Jones.
Jones was still the Chiefs’ best pass rusher in 2020 and getting rid of him in hypothetical offseason scenarios would only hurt a pass rush that struggled outside of him last season. That’s why getting another quality defensive end this offseason to open up the rush is very important. In the end, the Chris Jones disrespect is getting a little ridiculous.