Offseason Need: Debatable
To put it bluntly: the Chiefs’ pass rush wasn’t good enough last season. It totaled 31 sacks, compared to 46 and 47 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Too often, opposing offenses were able to neutralize the Chiefs defense by focusing on Justin Houston and daring others to win their individual matchups.
It’s clear they need to be better. What isn’t clear is what they need to do this offseason to get better. They might rely upon the development of young guys in house. They might take a mid-round draft pick to develop. They could even be aggressive and try to add a top pass rusher in the draft.
IF I’m running the team, I’d add at least one more very good pass rusher. I wouldn’t just rely on the hope that their own guys are better, and that level of better will be good enough. We’ll see if Brett Veach and Andy Reid agree.
Returning: Justin Houston, Dee Ford, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Frank Zombo
One All-Pro, two guys with some upside and Frank Zombo. Don’t listen to anyone who believes Houston has fallen off. He’s still among the best EDGE players in the league, and arguably the most well-rounded. He’s a dominant player against the run, and a legit take-over-the-game threat as a pass rusher.
Ford will be one to watch this season. When healthy, he’s at least a very good speed rusher who can affect offenses. He appears to finally be healthy, and he’ll be motivated to earn a big paycheck in a contract year. I could easily see another double-digit sack season in the cards for Dee Ford. Of course, I could also see him struggling to stay healthy and get passed over by a young player who is rapidly improving.
That young player may very well be Tanoh Kpassagnon. He’s got freakish physical traits and raw ability. He was well known to be a project coming out of the draft, and it was evident on the field at times. He clearly needed to improve his recognition, as he often appeared to be thinking and processing instead of just reacting. It does seem like the Chiefs love the prospects of what he could become. Now, it’s a matter of seeing if they can get the best out of him. How soon could their investment pay off? Is the potential Kpassagnon possesses enough to bank on him this season?
One player with no question marks (meaning we know exactly what he brings to the table) is Frank Zombo. A veteran role player, he’s been forced into action a lot over his Chiefs career. Each season, we hope that the team has improved to the point in which they no longer need him. This season, the same hope applies going into the draft and training camp. If they move on from Zombo, it’s a great sign that they have accumulated enough young talent that they don’t need the safety net he provides any longer.
Unknowns: Dadi Nicolas, Tyrone Holmes
Nicolas, the former sixth-round pick, hasn’t really been able to begin his NFL career. He was thought to have some legit NFL tools, but at this point, it feels like a long shot to even see him on the field for the Chiefs.
Holmes is a player many have predicted could be a sleeper on the list of Chiefs futures contracts this offseason. In 2015, he led the nation in sacks with 18, he has an outstanding athletic profile and looked the part in preseason action.
Wildcard: Chris Jones
Yes, I know Jones is a defensive lineman. But, he did line up on the edge at times last year. He also reportedly slimmed down and expects to get more snaps outside this season. If Jones is a factor, he and Kpassagnon both could be versatile threats from inside and out... imagine those two working together on stunts and gaming offensive linemen.
Perhaps if Jones is going to help this EDGE group be better, then the bigger draft need is interior defensive line?
Compared to 2017: Potentially better
The Chiefs are (as of now) banking on in-house improvements for this position group. The 2018 outlook is very dependent upon a lot of ifs.
If Kpassagnon develops rapidly and takes over the starting position... they are better.
If Ford is healthy and has a big season in a contract year... they are better.
If both of those things happen and Justin Houston plays like Justin Houston... they are much better.