Just over a year ago, Tershawn Wharton was ending his college football career at Missouri S&T, hoping to turn heads enough for an invitation to try to make the leap into the National Football League. At present, he’s ready to turn the corner and take over significant reps along the interior of the K.C. Chiefs defensive front after breaking through as a rookie.
Wharton’s rookie season was one of the single greatest stories on the Chiefs team in 2020. Despite not having any sort of real offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wharton showcased an impressive ability to make an immediate impact at the highest levels of football. He not only made the team’s active roster without the aid of rookie minicamp or other ways to earn the coaching staff’s attention but he also went on to earn serious playing time.
By the end of 2020, Wharton was a fixture along the defensive line, to the tune of having played in 48 percent of all defensive snaps throughout the season. That’s more than Derrick Nnadi or Mike Pennel last year and his presence kept former third-round pick Khalen Saunders on the bench.
In order to better prepare himself for the rigors of a full season, Wharton stated that he turned to specific exercises and working on his hands in order to better his game. He spoke with reporters on Tuesday and detailed his offseason workouts.
“Knowing what was coming after my rookie year, I did a lot of things like yoga, pilates, just working my hands a little bit more because that’s where I feel I lacked in the game,” said Wharton. “Last year I came in ready to go, using my motor. I mean I haven’t lost my motor but that’s what it really was last year that had me play.”
Wharton hopes to gain more playing time inside even as the team also added Jarran Reed up front and Saunders is back and healthy. Nnadi is also entering a contract season which means he’ll be plenty motivated for more reps as well. The move of Chris Jones to defensive end at times will free up some reps, and Wharton says it’s good for everyone.
“It’s very exciting. I feel like it’s good for the team and Chris. I think he’s very versatile and I think he’ll be very good for us.”
Just how much more playing time will be difficult to calculate given the parameters involved. It depends on how much Jones ends up playing outside rather than inside and whether Saunders is ready to show out in the wake of being benched last year. How much did the young players grow, Wharton included? The competition will bear this out, but Wharton says it helps to get the pads on in camp.
“I love putting on the pads. It was able to get more physical, so it was good to get physical and then the conditioning as well. I like to think I’m in good shape, but when you put the pads on, it’ll wake you up a little bit.”
Last year, Wharton played in all 16 games for the Chiefs and had 27 total tackles to go with 4 quarterback hits, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.