The 2021 season has been full of surprises for the Kansas City Chiefs. Through eight weeks the Chiefs are (barely) .500, having played multiple close games with clearly inferior competition and getting blown out twice in one season.
The Chiefs had not received the type of beating they did against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Patrick Mahomes era, and now they’ve received it three times in nine games. For various reasons, the team is struggling.
The story isn’t all bad, though there are only a handful of items that somewhat balance the scales. Here are the five surprise players, both good and bad, through nearly the halfway point of the 2021 season.
Chris Jones has been an absolute wrecking ball along the defensive line every year of his career. He’s one of the best defensive tackles in the league, particularly as a pass rusher amassing 40.5 sacks through his first five years with the Chiefs.
There had been whispers for a few years that Jones either wanted or the coaching staff had considered moving him outside. Jones was one of the most double-teamed players in the league, and the idea of giving him more one-on-one opportunities from the defensive end position was a tempting one.
Then came the perfect storm of the 2021 offseason, where the Chiefs entered training camp very thin along the defensive line. They had brought in a starter caliber interior lineman in Jarran Reed, so naturally, the solution was to pull the trigger on the Chris Jones “defensive end experiment. After averaging nearly 11 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 26 quarterback hits the last three seasons Jones’ production has fallen off a cliff.
Through eight games Jones is on pace for career lows, outside his rookie season, of six sacks and 12 quarterback hits. Surprisingly, it seems teams have found effective ways to scheme Jones out of plays more easily on the outside than the inside.
Fortunately, with the team trading a sixth-rounder for Pittsburgh Steeler edge rusher Melvin Ingram the belief is the “experiment” has come to an end. Hopefully, the lack of production goes along with it.