Perhaps it’s only a matter of time until we see the Chiefs end the experiment with Chris Jones outside or until we see Jarran Reed start to look like an impact signing after adjusting to Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. We would love to see all of that and more—whatever makes the defensive front start to click—but what would also be great is if Khalen Saunders was ready to take over as hoped.
Don’t forget that Saunders was a small school prospect out of Western Illinois who was still selected in the top 100 picks of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was dubbed the Aaron Donald of the FCS for his ability to disrupt the pocket with a shocking athleticism for a player his size (he’s the single heaviest defender on the entire team by 7 pounds over Derrick Nnadi).
That sort of raw talent and incredible size and strength is the sort of combination that could be molded into something rare, even at the NFL level. The Chiefs have seen the likes of Dontari Poe before, so they know a thing or two about a stout defensive tackle who can surprise offensive linemen inside. They’re not the same player at all but the sentiment is the same and we’d love to see Saunders make that leap.
Last season, however, Saunders had an elbow injury that robbed him of most of the first half of the season and by the time he’d returned, Turk Wharton had taken over his reps. Now would be a great time for Saunders to progress enough to claim more time and give the interior a push up front as the team gets things moving when it matters most.