The Kansas City Chiefs have a lot of questions along the defensive line, but here’s how the competition is looking at this stage of the summer.
The greatest concern in regards to the Kansas City Chiefs’ current roster structure is the depth and experience among the defensive line. At tackle, Chris Jones is entering the year at full health but Jarran Reed is gone. While Derrick Nnadi and Tershawn Wharton have proven serviceable, they will both need to step up in 2022.
Melvin Ingram has departed from the defensive end room and Frank Clark is only getting older. The youthful depth on the edge is surrounded with question marks, and as of now, there isn’t even a hint of certainty as to what the rotation will look like in week one.
Let’s look at the overall competition both outside and inside for Kansas City at this point in the summer.
Defensive end competition
With the aforementioned uncertainty in this room, there are a variety of openings for meaningful snaps to be earned via offseason competition. With Brett Veach and the front office selecting George Karlaftis with the 30th overall pick of this year’s draft, it is assumed that he will have the opportunity to take over a meaningful role immediately.
Things become far more interesting among the defensive ends, however, when considering the role that Frank Clark will play in the upcoming season. While his deal was restructured this offseason to move money around and lock him up through the 2023 season, there are no guarantees that he will remain among the leading snap-share holders for edge rushers in 2022.
Mike Danna, who played the second-most snaps for the Chiefs on the edge in 2021, and the development of last year’s fourth-round pick, Joshua Kaindoh, are in the spotlight right now. Danna spent the majority of last season splitting time with Alex Okafor as Clark’s counterpart. He only made six starts, but appeared in all 17 games and compiled three sacks. Kaindoh appeared in just three games in ‘21, spending almost the entire season on the practice squad.
There’s nothing to write home about between those descriptions, but considering how quickly the DE free agency pool thinned this offseason, it may be all the Chiefs have to work with in rotation this year. On the bright side, there should be legitimate competition between the two for the leading rotational spot, and each brings at least one interesting consideration to the table: Danna has last year’s experience to build on, and Kaindoh has an opportunity to prove critics wrong.
It was his measurable traits that made Kaindoh an early day three candidate in the 2021 draft. His 6’5”, 260-pound frame comes with length and strength that is typically seen translating to the NFL. In his three seasons at Florida State, however, he battled injury, and after a successful true-freshman campaign, was unable to display durability. The overall consensus on him heading into the draft was that he lacked the “it factor” for an NFL pass rusher, and surely he has aspirations to disprove that theory.
Clark will likely start across from Karlaftis, but as he is phasing out of the picture in Kansas City, the 2022 season will serve as an opportunity for one or two individuals to earn another contract with the team.