Offseason defensive line need: Another disrupter
The 3-4 defense and corresponding subpackages work best when there is a credible threat coming at offenses from multiple positions along the front seven. Teams shouldn’t be able to move the ball by singling out one player on the defensive front and putting a double team on them. Unfortunately, the 2017 Chiefs defense generally had two defenders to worry about: Chris Jones and Justin Houston. The development of Tanoh Kpassagnon and the return of Dee Ford might help the pass rush on the outside, but who on the interior has a real chance to be a dynamic player in 2018?
Going into the draft, it would be at least a “nice to have” upgrade (arguably a necessity) for the Chiefs to bring in a disruptive interior pass rusher to add more playmakers to go along with Jones and Houston. The entire defense would look better if there is both a fierce interior and outside pass rush for offenses to deal with.
Returning: Chris Jones, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Jarvis Jenkins, Allen Bailey
Chris Jones is now the headliner on the defensive line, with his ability to take over games by making plays against the run and the pass. His game against the Eagles was arguably among the best games for any defender in the league. Three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. The only question about Jones is whether he can string more of those performances together and be a consistently dominant player.
Allen Bailey is a guy many Chiefs fans thought would be a cap-casualty, but all has been quiet around him so far. Bailey was also quiet in 2017, not recording a sack after week 3. It’s reasonable to think that Bailey can be a part of the defensive line rotation going forward, but it’s hard to see him elevating to be a dominant player at this point in his career.
Rakeem Nunez-Roches was given a low original round restricted free agent tender, so as of now, he’s likely to be returning to the Chiefs. He’s shown flashes of potential as a disruptive run defender, and proven that he should be in the mix going forward.
Notable additions: Xavier Williams
The Chiefs added an up-and-coming run stopper at the nose tackle position to replace Bennie Logan. Williams looks like a guy who is improving and wants to attack gaps and make plays. He’s apparently on a very inexpensive two-year contract, so even if he’s just “almost as good” as Logan was, it’ll be a smart move for Chiefs GM Brett Veach.
Notable subtractions: Bennie Logan
Logan actually had a very solid individual season last year, contrary to many perceptions out there. He was, however, the central part of a poor run defense, and therefore gets much of the blame. He’s now a member of the Tennessee Titans on a one-year, $4-5M contract. If the Chiefs really wanted him back, you’d assume they could have afforded him. But, they’ll attempt to get younger and cheaper with Xavier Williams instead.
Unknowns: Justin Hamilton, Stefan Charles, TY McGill, Mike Purcell, Josh Augusta
Justin Hamilton, a thickly built 24-year-old defensive tackle at 6 feet 1 and 311 pounds, is the favorite long shot of a few Chiefs Twitter and media types. The Chiefs added him from the Eagles practice squad after he bounced around the league a bit. Hamilton has shown some ability, so he might be one to watch in camp.
Augusta is probably even more of a long shot to make the squad, as a 2017 undrafted free agent who hasn’t played in an NFL regular season game yet. He’s a massive nose tackle, at 6 feet 4 and 335 pounds and is only 23 years old. Augusta was a productive player at Mizzou, but reportedly needed some work with NFL conditioning coaches in order to compete at the next level (he claims to have played at 390 pounds at times in college). Maybe he’s just another guy that doesn’t make it out of camp.
But, perhaps the Chiefs see some potential as a future force in the middle, or the new “Hungry Pig” (Augusta rushed for two touchdowns in college).
Compared to 2017: About the same
We’ve all been thinking of defensive line as a huge need for the Chiefs. Perhaps it’s because the Chiefs have been so aggressive on offense, it feels like they are neglecting the defense in comparison. Perhaps it’s because the run defense was a weakness that fans wanted to see addressed. Perhaps it’s because Logan left in free agency, and we thought Bailey and Rakeem Nunez-Roches could have departed as well. So, maybe we just made up our minds that this would be an overhaul up front.
Maybe we were wrong. Bailey and Nunez-Roches remain on the roster, and Logan was replaced by a comparable player who is cheaper and younger.
The Chiefs then re-signed Jarvis Jenkins and Stefan Charles. The end result is a depth chart that looks about the same as in 2017. Prior to the NFL draft, it would appear the Chiefs are banking on improvements from the linebackers to solve the issues that were revealed last season.
Of course, they can surprise us all again by being aggressive in the draft and adding an athletic lineman that could help push the front seven to the next level.