The K.C. Chiefs have no shortage of players who are listed as favorites or at least decent candidates for a number of postseason awards and/or Pro Bowl players on offense. From Patrick Mahomes’ annual MVP run to watching Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce play like the best at their respective positions, the Chiefs offense is loaded. However, they might have a household name emerging on defense as well.
Chris Jones is already a well-known player in the NFL, a man who has earned league-wide respect for his devastating effect on opposing quarterbacks. As a disruptor from the defensive tackle position, he’s the best pass rusher this side of Aaron Donald and has given the Chiefs a game-wrecking force up front to help balance out the offense in their pursuit of Super Bowl glory year after year.
Just over a year ago, the Chiefs made the decision to reward Jones for his efforts (and to pay him for his future production) to the tune of $20 million annually, so if money talks, it’s also saying the same things about Jones’ greatness.
Chris Jones could be a sleeper candidate for the DPOY.
To date, however, Jones has yet to make the leap to being a household name—the sort of player who comes up in conversations around the league’s best defensive player overall. This year could be his year.
Jones has longed to rush from the edge for some time for the Chiefs, but Steve Spagnuolo has chosen to utilize him inside while allowing Frank Clark and others to serve as the team’s edge rushers. However, this season, Jones has been lining up on the outside on early downs in a bit of preseason experimentation meant to maximize his potential and give the Chiefs the max flexibility up front.
This sort of mixed usage has NFL.com columnist Bucky Brooks believing that Jones could be a dark horse candidate for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2021.
"Steve Spagnuolo’s aforementioned plan to utilize Jones inside and outside on the front line could help the sixth-year veteran take his game up a notch in 2021, but the 6-foot-6, 310-pound pass rusher is an absolute load wherever he lines up."
Jones’ best statistical season to date came back in 2018 when he had 15.5 sacks from the interior, but he somehow didn’t make the Pro Bowl that season. Instead, he’s made it the last two years as he’s clearly entering his prime. This year, he also made it to the highest point yet in the NFL’s Top 100 Players list at No. 34, up from No. 52 overall last year.
The Chiefs now have Jarran Reed up front to use as a disruptive force in the middle, which gives the team the ability to shift Jones outside. That trio of players, along with the emergence of Mike Danna, Khalen Saunders, and Turk Wharton, should allow Jones to go where he wants rather than being required to stay inside.