In 2022, Kansas City’s defense recorded 55 sacks, ranking second in the NFL. A lot of that has to do with Chris Jones.
The 28-year-old defensive tackle tallied 15.5 sacks last season, but that is not the only thing Jones does for this defense. Jones’ ability to consistently beat double teams in pass protections opens up lanes for his teammates to get to the passer. According to PFF, Jones recorded a 92.2 pass-rush grade in 2022, and was ranked the best defensive tackle in the NFL.
A player that benefited a lot from Jones’ presence was Karlaftis. The Purdue product struggled to get to the quarterback early on, but in the final seven weeks of the season, Karlaftis recorded six sacks. After figuring things out late in the season, while utilizing his high motor, Karlaftis allowed the focused attention on Jones to unlock his pass-rushing ability.
Felix Anudike-Uzomah is entering a similar situation as Karlaftis did last season. After releasing Frank Clark, the Chiefs were in need of a pass rusher, selecting Anudike-Uzomah 31st overall in the 2023 NFL draft. Like Karlaftis, Anudike-Uzomah possesses a high motor and strength that gives him opportunities to get to the quarterback.
Last offseason, Frank Clark took Karlaftis under his wing, and I expect Karlaftis to do the same thing with Anudike-Uzomah this offseason.
Omenihu and Keondre Coburn are two names to also watch on the defensive line. The Chiefs signed Omenihu to a two-year, $16 million deal with $10.6 million guaranteed earlier in the offseason. Coburn, a value pick in the sixth round of the 2023 draft, is a player that can be starting alongside Jones at some point this season. At 6-foot-2 and 332 pounds, the former Texas Longhorn has shown the ability to contribute in the run game. He is quick off of the snap, and consistently creates leverage on opposing offensive linemen. Coburn isn’t going to make an outsized impact as a pass-rusher, but he should be able to occupy blockers, which could free players like Jones and Omenihu.