Imagining what the Chiefs’ pass rush might look like in 2022

In 2021, the Kansas City Chiefs finished with the fourth-fewest team sacks in the NFL. They had one of the highest rushing rates and quarterback percentages in the league, but the unit failed to convert that disruption enough into sacks. It materialized at the most important moments of the season.

The pass rush has be more productive, but it’s hard to tell if they’re really set up to be. They lost impact players with the departures of Melvin Ingram and defensive tackle Jarran Reed, but countered those moves with the additions of rookie George Karlaftis and veteran Carlos Dunlap.

In order to determine the quality of this unit, let’s examine each piece of the puzzle.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones

Without wasting time experimenting as a full-time defensive end this year, there’s every reason to believe Jones can be the dominant passer we know from Week 1 through the final game.

Once he returned to playing mostly indoors in Week 9 of 2021, he wreaked much more havoc: Jones pressured 16.8% of his pass-rush snaps from of week 9, a higher rate than players like Myles Garrett, Aaron Donald, the Bosa Brothers and Maxx Crosby in this streak. Six of Jones’ nine sacks for the season also arrived around this time.

It’s simple: guards and centers cannot individually block Jones. Even with help, it’s nearly impossible to stop him from entering their protective pass. If the lineman stays engaged while being pushed back, Jones’ size is still enough to make quarterbacks uncomfortable and force them out of their spot in the pocket.

Whether or not he hits the quarterback, the constant threat of Jones right in the face can lead to panicked footwork and off-time throws. It also leads to clearing bags for teammates, which are the situations that need to be completed more often this year.

Defensive end Frank Clark

Clark is the experienced leader of the defensive end group, which means he’ll likely lead the defensive end position in a pinch. When passing, it will be his ball speed that will be his greatest asset.

When Clark is at his best, it’s because he can explode on the snap and win that step on offensive tackle as he drops in his passing set. The more pressure Clark can put on tackles to get depth in their fall, the more vulnerable they will be to inside countermoves. At this point in his career, Clark must win with finesse; winning with power is only set up by speed.

One of the best ways to take advantage of Clark’s brilliance and speed — something he’s been working to improve this offseason — is to use it on Tex’s stunts, a term for tackle/trick twists. End.

The inside rusher to Clark’s side would penetrate the guard’s outside shoulder to the offensive tackle’s inside shoulder, giving a seam to his inside for Clark to loop behind him. The faster the end can reach the inside seam, the more likely it is to pass freely.

Defensive end George Karlaftis

We know Karlaftis will play on the edge as a traditional defensive end. What we don’t know is how creative they are getting with his roster as a passing thrower on obvious passes.

From our brief preview of training camp, it looks like he has the power to be disruptive in any one-on-one blocking scenario. This gives them the ability to push him inside if necessary, in scenarios where they prefer two other rushers on the ground like Clark and Dunlap.

For a detailed breakdown of who he was as a player in college, Matt Stagner rated Karlaftis ahead of the Arrowhead Pride draft.

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap

The veteran pass thrower is sure to make an impact on the Chiefs as an off-the-edge situational pass thrower – or maybe even more so? I explained what to expect from Dunlap at the time of signing.

Defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton

Wharton proved capable of providing a spark as an inside rusher. He has the quickness and the natural inclination to really put a different kind of stress on a guard in a one-on-one situation. He usually gets them because Chris Jones asks for help from the center on the other side.

Wharton progressed steadily during his two-year career. He increased his pressure rate from 6.3% in 2020 to 8.6% last year, while forcing two fumbles and winning his first career interception last season.

Defensive end Mike Danna

Danna has earned a reputation for being tough on the edge, with strong hands and a high drive that also help her be a weapon in the pass rush.

The third-year defender is comfortable on the flat and in space, athletic enough to tackle in the open field. At the same time, his fundamental strength allows him to be pushed inside for some pass-rush packages.

That versatility can be put to even more use now that he’s placed lower on the depth chart; Danna talked about being used as an inside rusher during training camp.

Assemble pieces

So now that we have the parts, we can figure out the best ways to put them together.

This is what could be considered the normal transmission range. They are the projected starters, with Wharton replacing nose tackle Derrick Nnadi. Clark and Jones – on the same side – can demand a lot of attention with the twists and stunts they could deploy, leaving advantageous individual situations for Wharton and Karlaftis.

This might be the favorite version of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s well-known personnel strategy for rushing passes: the NASCAR package. He brings defensive ends to rush from within, maximizing the amount of pure passing talent that lies on the pitch.

In this lineup, the quarterback has to deal with extraordinary length, and one of the best hitters in the league goes to the line – on both sides of the ball. Jones and Dunlap both finished in the top six in this category last season, per PFF.

If the Chiefs want to perform Tex stunts with Clark, one aspect to consider is ensuring the late tackle is able to follow a potentially scrambled quarterback into space if pressure from Clark drives him away. Danna would be perfect – but you can imagine Karlaftis occupying that spot as well.

On the other side, Jones will likely demand attention from the center, giving Clark an even better chance of pulling off the stunt.

Removing Clark from the field for this formation allows the edges of the pocket to be smashed by powerful rushers like Dunlap and Karlaftis, while Jones and Wharton can work to penetrate from the front. This combination of power could cause him to crumble quickly; also worth pointing out is the length nightmare that is Jones and Dunlap on the same side of the ball.

The bottom line

I think it’s fair to expect the pass rush to be more productive this season, mostly because they have more quality players they can throw into the rotation. I also think Jones will have a better season playing his natural All-Pro position from start to finish, which will naturally raise the floor for the rest of the group.

We have an idea of ​​how each talent could be used on a particular play, but this group has enough versatility to keep Spags unpredictable with lineups.

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