Which players emerge along the defensive front behind Clark and Karlaftis?
The Chiefs lackluster pass rush is no secret, both to fans and opponents. The unit ranked in the league’s bottom half of many key metrics, such as pressures, sacks, and more. Kansas City spared no expense on the group as well, between defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Chris Jones. Sure, the unit looked better in the season’s second half, Melvin Ingram is not coming to save the season this time. At least one, if not two, players need to step up in training camp.
Clark and three-year veteran Mike Danna are really the only known quantities in the defensive end room. The Chiefs selected defensive end George Karlaftis at 30th overall, but relying on a rookie alone is foolish, if not desperate. He has some flaws in his game, and that doesn’t account for the NFL learning curve.
There are two wildcards in the defensive end room, namely Malike Herring and Joshua Kaindoh. Both are in their second year and both have something to prove. Herring missed the 2021 season due to injury but looked good early during this offseason. a strong training camp from him would not only establish his roster spot but give him a better footing in the weekly rotation. Kaindoh has all the athletic tools for a successful NFL career but has not put it all together or gotten an opportunity to.
Kaindoh feels like a huge boom-or-bust player ahead of roster cuts. A solid, even great training camp could propel him up the depth chart, closer to Karlaftis than Danna. On the other hand, if he still struggles the Chiefs may choose to move on. Kaindoh and Herring do not seem to be competing against each other, but that motivation and drive cannot hurt.
The interior defensive line, an underrated part of any team’s pass rush, needs to find a running mate alongside Jones. While defensive tackles Derrick Nnadi and Tershawn Wharton have fits in rush and pass defense, respectively, both need backups. Taylor Stallworth is an interesting, under-the-radar acquisition from this offseason. He could be the answer but needs a strong camp just to ensure his roster spot. If the defensive end position wasn’t lacking such depth, fans would be more focused on the lack of legitimate, every-snap options alongside Jones.
More questions remain about the interior defensive line. Is this defensive tackle Khalen Saunder’s last chance? Is there any room for growth for Nnadi, or has he reached his ceiling? Outside of Jones, things are very unclear along the interior defensive front.