Defensive line depth has long been a concern of the Chiefs, but Khalen Saunders—a 2019 third-round draft pick—has stepped up big-time in the first three weeks of his first contract year. He’s truly playing like a man on a mission, and, so far, has done exactly what he needs to earn a second deal from the Chiefs.
Saunders was behind only Darius Harris and Nick Bolton in total tackles on Sunday, and also landed two hits on Matt Ryan. He has always been fast and extremely athletic, but his height and length have limited him in his first three years as a pro. It seems as if he has figured out the path beyond the disadvantages of his stature this year, and has been able to display his freakish athleticism.
On top of his contributions to the defensive effort, Saunders was plugged in with the offense as a full back for a goal line snap. Everything he has proven in terms of his growth on the defensive side of the ball is exciting, but what he can bring to the table as an all-around athlete is awesome. Anyone else seeing shades of Dontarie Poe?
With the combined additions of Carlos Dunlap and George Karlaftis, Frank Clark’s portion of the snap share seems to be shrinking in 2022. He’s played over 70% of defensive snaps in each of his previous three seasons in Kansas City, and has only been in on 60% thus far in 2022. At this point in his career, a lesser load may be intentional to maximize what he has to offer. If that is the case, it’s benefit was showcased on Sunday.
Clark had one sack, laid an additional hit on Matt Ryan, and made an impressive chase-down tackle for loss. He came into training camp looking leaner, and there appears to be some reborn juice in his veteran legs. Should he continue to build on Sunday’s success throughout the season, Frank Clark will make a notable impact on the developing improvement of the defensive line.
The aforementioned Dunlap brought a wealth of experience with him to Kansas City. His deployment has been sparing thus far, but when he is on the field, his presence is always felt.
Late in the second quarter on Sunday, Dunlap chased down a scrambling Matt Ryan and recorded the Chiefs’ second strip sack of the game. The ball was recovered by L’Jarius Sneed, and opened the door for the Chiefs to take the lead at halftime.
Carlos Dunlap came to Kansas City with two goals in mind: collecting his 100th career sack, and winning a Super Bowl. If he can achieve those accolades, it would mean for a great year in Chiefs Kingdom.