Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Derrick Nnadi, Turk Wharton, Mike Danna, Khalen Saunders, Joshua Kaindoh, Alex Okafor, Malik Herring (NFI)
If the game is won or lost in the trenches, then the Chiefs are ready to declare victory. This defensive line matches the offensive one in talent and overall depth, and Steve Spagnuolo is going to love the overall versatility offered with this unit. Jones is ready to slide outside as needed, and Danna and Wharton are also ready to play along the edge and rotate inside.
The addition of Reed coincides well with Nnadi’s contract season and the breakout preseason performance from Saunders. While the Chiefs need to see if these same players can stay productive into the regular season, they look ready to roll while hoping that Okafor can stay healthy for the duration and Kaindoh can produce something while developing during his rookie campaign.
Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr., Anthony Hitchens, Ben Niemann, Darius Harris, Dorian O’Daniel
The Chiefs haven’t looked this good in the heart of the defense since Derrick Johnson manned the middle of Bob Sutton’s best defensive units. Steve Spagnuolo is going to have fun having multiple high-ceiling linebackers with which to utilize as he sees fit.
Let’s be clear that this is a unit that will grow with more experience, so fans should expect some painful moments from young guys learning to adjust to the mental side of the pro game. However, Gay and Bolton both have such natural skill sets that should excel in time as the game comes more naturally to them. With greater depth comes better fitting roles which should help guys like Niemann play to their strengths instead of being tasked with too much.
It is odd to see six linebackers here, but Willie Gay is currently injured so we expect either DOD or Harris to be released if/when Gay gets the all-clear.