Defensive tackle competition
As far as competition goes among the defensive tackles, the hope is that someone will emerge as a consistent contributor next to Chris Jones. Jarran Reed was the leader for playing time (over 700 snaps) in the DT room last year, and his absence will be felt in 2022.
Tershawn Wharton and Derrick Nnadi were the greatest contributors last year behind Jones and Reed. The battle between the two of them for the second interior position on the line should be fierce.
Nnadi, a 2018 third-rounder from Florida State, has become a mainstay of the defensive line since entering the league. It is his size, however, that appears to limit him most often. Although he weighs over 300 pounds and has a notably strong lower half, his 6’1” frame has limited his emergence as an imposing pass rush threat. An unfortunate regularity for Nnadi is that his hands often aren’t quick enough and he gets swallowed up by bigger-bodied offensive linemen. He did have a career-high three sacks in 2021, but a greater threat for hitting the quarterback is needed for Jones to maximize his own potential.
Wharton, on the other hand, was an undrafted free agent in 2020. He is built more like a defensive end at 6’4” and 280 pounds but offers a compelling athletic buildout to the interior. His Division II collegiate experience was a likely speed bump in his transition to NFL competition, but he filled a crucial rotational role last year, taking over 500 defensive snaps. With continued development of his technique, the strength and speed that he plays with could potentially wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines.
Beyond the two front-runners for the snap-share alongside Chris Jones, Taylor Stallworth offers further competition to beef up the rotation. Again, there’s not much to write home about from a past production perspective, but he posted a career-high three sacks in 2021 for the Indianapolis Colts. Looking beyond Stallworth is where the greatest depth concerns are found on the defensive line. Khalen Saunders has never been healthy, and can’t be relied on for much—if any—consistency, and Cortez Broughton has never made a start in the NFL.
Barring injuries, Jones, Wharton, Nnadi, and Stallworth will be the staples at DT in ‘22, and the latter three each share the legitimate potential to make considerable contributions.