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Brendan Daly is confident in all options for the defensive line rotation

The Chiefs defensive line coach has multiple players to consider as he deals with a suspension and multiple injuries.

Houston Texans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Entering Week 1, the Kansas City Chiefs were already down one interior defensive lineman because of Mike Pennel’s two-game suspension. Then second-year defensive tackle Khalen Saunders suffered a dislocated elbow eight snaps into his 2020 campaign and veteran defensive end Alex Okafor hurt his hamstring enough to miss practice this week. Rookies like fifth-round pick Michael Danna and the undrafted Tershawn Wharton were forced to step up and fill in.

But in their first live action, these first-year players did as well as they could be expected to do; each one forced a quarterback pressure and produced against the run.

The defensive assistant coaches haven’t shied away from giving praise to the rookies during the virtual offseason and at training camp. When he spoke to reporters on Thursday, defensive line coach Brendan Daly continued to say good things about the most inexperienced contributors on his front.

“Both guys have done a great job since we got them here,” Daly said of Wharton and Danna. “They work hard, they come in every day, they are very smart, they take great notes, they’ve got a business-like demeanor about them that I’ve been very impressed with both of them, to be honest. They’re mature individuals for rookies coming into the NFL, in my opinion. It’s been a lot of fun to work with them, it’s been a lot of fun to watch them develop... I expect them to continue to improve based on what their athletic skill set is — and then what they bring to the job every day in terms of their work ethic and their dedication.”

Even with the two rookies’ contributions, there will be more help needed to have a full, normal rotation up front — but Daly expressed his confidence in players that we haven’t even yet seen hit the field.

“We’ve got some options there, you know, and honestly I don’t know that that’s a great concern to me,” Daly said of the line depth. “My thought process is we’re going to prepare each and every one of the guys — whether they’re on the roster, whether they’re on the practice squad to play each week — and that’s my expectation for those guys is that they’re prepared, and when called upon that they’re going to step up and perform... Tim Ward as an example, Braxton (Hoyett), as an example, Demone Harris, Taco Charlton, guys that didn’t necessarily play in the game a week ago, that’s a very fluid situation week in and week out — and that’s my expectation for each and every one of those guys: that they’re going to prepare and be ready to go in if they’re called upon.”

We may see one of those players active on the game day 48-man roster. They’ll need to do well right away to stifle Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler — but an even bigger challenge is coming during Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens. While the unit will have Pennel back, the young contributors will still be needed.

If they do perform well, credit should go to Coach Daly — but he made sure to point out the contributions of general manager Brett Veach and his staff.

“I’ve got confidence in every one of those guys,” Daly declared. “I feel good about the depth that we’ve got; I think that’s a great credit to our personnel department and the people that they’ve brought in. I think it’s a great credit to that group of individuals in terms of the way they approach their business on a day-to-day basis.”

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