The Chiefs’ only acquisition at the defensive end position thus far has been first-rounder George Karlaftis. After the team placed the UFA tag on Melvin Ingram, he has chosen instead to sign a contract with the Miami Dolphins. As a result, Kansas City stands to gain a compensation pick in next year’s NFL Draft (likely a sixth-rounder).
Where does this leave the Chiefs? Of last year’s edge rush rotation, only Frank Clark and Mike Danna remain. Melvin Ingram and Alex Okafor are out the door. Some young edge rushers with promise, Joshua Kaindoh and Malik Herring, figure to play a role somewhere along the defensive line next season. However, relying heavily on what essentially amounts to Mike Danna and three rookie pass rushers to produce opposite of Frank Clark may not be the safest plan for next season.
Karlaftis should be the Week One starter at DE as it stands now. Karlaftis should be able to contribute strong production as a rookie. However, questions remain about his ability against the run. If the Chiefs want to get the best out of Karlaftis as a rookie, they’re better off bringing in a veteran that can rotate in to keep the unit fresh. A veteran presence could play early downs to allow the Chiefs’ rookie to hone his skills in the run game and come along slowly if needed.
After Drafting Karlaftis, Jadeveon Clowney Is A Perfect Fit For The Chiefs’ New Defense
Jadeveon Clowney will instantly get a groan from most NFL fans. Clowney, who entered the league as the number one overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has never lived up to his potential. However, despite a media narrative that may say differently, Clowney has been a strong contributor in the NFL. He earned three consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 2016 to 2018. As a Second-Team All-Pro in 2016, Clowney tallied just six sacks. However, he also logged 52 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 17 QB hits.
Much of what causes disappointment around Clowney is his sack totals. Since entering the league, he has averaged just under six sacks per season. Since leaving Houston, he’s averaged just four sacks per season in the three seasons. However, Clowney saw a resurgence in the sacks department last season for the Browns. Clowney’s nine sacks and 19 QB hits last season were both his highest marks since 2018. With Myles Garrett opposite, the former top pick saw a resurgence.
In his time with Seattle and Tennessee, Clowney was put into a primary edge rusher role and was not able to play the supporting role. In his time with the Texans (opposite JJ Watt) and with Cleveland last season, Clowney was able to thrive. With Kansas City, Clowney will once again not be thrust into the top of the depth chart but instead be able to play his unique role within the defense.
Clowney’s Skills As A Run Defender Make Him A Strong Fit For Chiefs
A large theme of the offseason thus far for Kansas City has been bringing in able tacklers. Through free agency (Justin Reid and Jermaine Carter) and the draft (McDuffie and Cook), the Chiefs have brought in players with a strong tackling ability who aren’t scared to make hits. In Clowney, the Chiefs would acquire much of the same.
In 2020, Scott Patsko of Cleveland.com discussed Clowney as a potential replacement for Olivier Vernon. According to Patsko, PFF ranked Clowney in the top ten in run defense grades each year from 2015 to 2019. Even with some slight regression in 2021, Clowney still ranks among the very best in the NFL in terms of stopping the run.
If Brett Veach and the Chiefs are truly serious about building an elite defense, they cannot focus simply on the secondary or the pass rush. The team must ensure their defensive depth chart is deep with reinforcements and able to stop the run and the pass. The Chiefs fielded the 21st ranked run defense in 2021, and to truly cement the unit, it’s essential to address that piece of the defense as well.
Jadeveon Clowney can massively improve the Chiefs’ run defense by setting the edge. George Karlaftis could then develop at his own pace as a passing down pass rush specialist until he proves himself against the run. Most importantly, by signing Clowney, the team will be better protected from injury. As it stands now, an injury to Clark or Karlaftis could leave the defensive end position in a horrendous situation.
What do you think the Chiefs should do to replace Melvin Ingram? Do you think Jadeveon Clowney is a good fit for Kansas City?
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