Saying the Kansas City Chiefs season hasn’t started as we expected would be an understatement. After their surprising start, the Chiefs have battled back from the cellar of the AFC West to being a half-game behind the division-leading Las Vegas Raiders — against whom they will play this weekend on Sunday Night Football.
On Wednesday, defensive end Derrick Nnadi acknowledged that it’s been a hard challenge.
“The NFL is a long a process — [like] a marathon,” he told reporters. “So I feel like it takes a lot of time — a lot of repetition. It takes a lot of mistakes at times — a lot of errors — to really correct them and keep learning and keep moving forward. It’s all about correcting and improving.”
Nnadi was happy about getting his first sack of the season against the New York Giants in Week 8 — but frustrated after missing an opportunity on Sunday against Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love.
“Man, it’s fun when we get to get the job done,” he noted. “It’s a little frustrating when we miss out [on] our layups — like for instance, when I missed [that] opportunity. I was so frustrated — but it goes back to just keep working and keep striving for improvement.”
Now in his fourth year as a starter, Nnadi believes the defense’s recent improvement has been the result of new players beginning to come together as a unit.
“I really feel like he’s a real team guy” Nnadi said of newcomer Jarran Reed. “I feel like with him, he’s a real student of the game — trying to find out what we can do to add more improvement to our D-line [and] defense. He just keeps learning and learning — trying to help us be better.”
Nnadi already thinks the team’s newest defensive addition — edge rusher Melvin Ingram — will also help.
“[Ingram] throws in some nuggets here and there,” he said. “He’s more of a man of action. You see what he does — and [you] try to learn from it.”
But Nnadi thinks that the biggest improvement on the defense hasn’t been an addition to the unit. Instead, it’s been getting two-time Pro-Bowler Chris Jones back to the interior of the defensive line.
“[Chris] is willing and able to help out — [to do] whatever it is to help the defense progress,” he noted. “So I’m pushing him back to 3-tech — and Ingram outside. If it’s best for the team, I feel like he’ll do his best to do his job.”
Nnadi expressed optimism about where the defensive line now stands.
“I feel like it all goes back to us really, just gelling as a defense,” he explained. “In the beginning of the year, it’s always going to be a little shaky at times. Sometimes as the year progresses, you see more improvement. You see more found, improved techniques. I think it just goes back to just the guys keep working ... It felt cool having all those types of guys on the line. It felt strong.”
Now beyond the season’s midpoint, the Chiefs still have a chance to win the AFC West. But to do that, the defense needs to be better. Four weeks ago, Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric ranked it 31st. Now it ranks 28th.
“Well, [we’re] going back to what we do,” said Nnadi. “I feel like it’s all about consistency. I feel like as long as we keep stacking good plays [and] consistent effort, we’ve won.”