KC Chiefs: How much would Chris Jones' absence hurt against Detroit Lions

The KC Chiefs will have their hands full without Chris Jones on Thursday night against the Detroit Lions.

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs / David Eulitt/GettyImages

The Kansas City Chiefs have already started practicing for their season opener this Thursday night versus the Detroit Lions and of course, star defensive tackle Chris Jones was not present for practice as his contract holdout continues. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network even went as far as to say that the two sides "aren't close" on a new deal.

This is even coming after a report from Mike Florio of NBC's Pro Football Talk that stated Chris Jones isn't asking for "Aaron Donald money" and that the Chiefs are offering a deal that closely resembles what other defensive tackles such as Quinnen Williams and Dexter Lawrence got. "Jones, we’re told, isn’t trying to get to Donald’s number. In fact, he’d split the difference."

This gave off the impression that Jones and the Chiefs maybe weren't all that far off, but Rapoport seems to have dumped cold water on that idea. At this point, who knows what the truth is or who is holding up the deal? Whatever the deal is, it's seeming increasingly more likely that Jones will not be there on Thursday night when the Chiefs take on the Lions. Contract drama aside, let's consider the impact of Jones' absence in week one.

The KC Chiefs will have their hands full without Chris Jones on Thursday night against the Detroit Lions.

The Chiefs will have to be up for the challenge of taking on the Lions offense in week one without Chris Jones. It won't be an easy one. Many will look at the matchup on paper and chalk it up as a Chiefs victory or won't think much of the Lions. They only finished 9-8 last year after all and they missed the playoffs.

However, The Lions were one of the most explosive offenses in the league last year and they only look to be better in 2023. Many of us already know that the Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles were tied for the No. 1 offense in 2022. Did you know the Lions were right behind them at 26.6 PPG? Detroit accumulated 6,460 yards of passing offense last season and they were ranked 11th in rushing.

When you take a deeper look at the Lions' personnel, it's easy to see how this could be a tough matchup. Detroit has an exciting young receiving corps headlined by Amon-Ra St.Brown. Sophomore receiver Jameson Williams is as explosive as they come, but he will miss this one as he serves a gambling suspension by the NFL. Yet, they were without him last year for more than half the season as he recovered from a torn ACL and they still managed top three in offense. First-round draft pick Jahmyr Gibbs should also take their rushing attack to another level in 2023.

Kansas City's defense took a big step forward in 2022, as they put up their best season in the Patrick Mahomes era. The single biggest reason for the improvement was the Chiefs pass rush. It was an area in which the Chiefs struggled for a few years prior, but they finally came on strong in 2022, finishing second in the league in sacks and generating a lot of pressure.

That was in large part due to Jones, who had nearly a quarter of the Chiefs pressures in 2022. The two players behind him who had the second and third most, Carlos Dunlap and Frank Clark, are no longer in Kansas City.

Obviously, if Jones isn't playing this week, that's going to spell trouble for the Chiefs pass rush. There's just no way around it. Even the biggest free agent investment the Chiefs made on the defensive line, Charles Omenihu, will be out as he serves a six-game suspension from the NFL.

All of the responsibility is going to be on the young guys to generate pressure, but it's unreasonable to expect them to not struggle without the leader of the pass rush and the defense as a whole. Most of what the pass rush does as a whole is dependent on Jones being the catalyst and drawing double teams.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff is no superstar, but he quietly had a good 2022 season with Detroit. Just like most NFL quarterbacks, if you're giving him all day to sit back in the pocket and throw then anything can happen.

You simply can't downplay Jones's impact on the pass rush. For those suggesting that the team "doesn't need" Jones, consider this: Over the past five seasons, the Chiefs' quarterback pressure percentage ranks 1st in the NFL with Jones on the field. Without Jones on the field? 28th in pressure percentage. You're talking about the difference between one of the best units in the league to one of the worst without Jones on the field, which shouldn't really be all that surprising if you've paid attention to the Chiefs at all over that time span.

The Chiefs will also feel the loss of Jones when it comes to defending the run. Jones has made strides toward becoming a very good run defender over the last few seasons, and he's utilized his ability to shed blocks to improve his effectiveness in stopping the run.

Any worries about the position also have a lot to do with the depth behind Jones. The depth chart is scarce and doesn't feature many defensive tackles with experience or prowess. Tershawn Wharton should be next man up, but he's been unreliable in practice as he works his way back from a season-ending leg injury in 2022. Depth beyond both is a real issue.

The bottom line: not having Jones against the Lions and beyond creates all sorts of problems for the Chiefs because of how important Jones is to what they do on defense. If you're looking for a bright spot in all of this, Steve Spagnuolo's defenses typically start the season slowly, so not having Jones shouldn't be as big of a deal as long as the Chiefs get something figured out eventually, but it'd be crazy to think the defense won't take a hit. Expect Thursday night to be an offensive display between two of the top three offenses from last season.