Entering the offseason, one of the strongest, deepest positions on the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster was at defensive tackle. With Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Tershawn Wharton — and the potential of Khalen Saunders — the group had both top-end talent and quality depth.
Both of those improved when the Chiefs signed former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed to the team in late March. Not only has he strengthened the interior of the defense, but he’s also opened up the possibility that Jones could play more snaps as a defensive end.
In fact, that versatility was on the team's mind as they were signing Reed, as he revealed after Monday’s training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph — while also emphasizing that the entire group possesses alignment flexibility.
“That’s something we talked about and discussed: using the versatility of Chris Jones,” Reed acknowledged about his negotiations with the team. “I predominately play 3-technique and also nose [tackle]. We just got versatility along the line. Everybody can play every position. We’re all cross-training.”
It’s been a staple of coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defenses to use edge defenders as interior pass rushers in certain situations, but only rarely has it been the opposite — that is, an interior player lining up on the edge. In that sense, Jones is unique — and Reed’s presence allows his talent to be utilized.
Reed was also influenced to join the Chiefs by a former teammate and good friend: defensive end Frank Clark.
“Frank is my guy,” Reed noted. “I’m here to play ball with everybody — not just Frank. Of course, we have the chemistry and that togetherness as one of my close friends outside of football. It’s good to get back to it with everyone on the defensive line.”
Reed admitted that Clark being here helped him decide to sign with Kansas City — but it wasn’t the only reason.
“It played a good role,” Reed said of Clark’s presence. “But you know this is a great team. This is a team based on winning, based on hard work, and I wanted to join that. When you’re winning like that, it creates an environment that you want to be a part of.
“They work very hard, and I’m very appreciative — cause it actually shows when game time hits: they win for a reason. When you’re actually inside their walls, you can see why they’re winning.”
At Monday’s practice, the defensive line did a lot of winning themselves. Reed, Clark and Jones were all popping out in run defense, penetrating the offensive line and getting their hands on ball carriers in the backfield. The unit as a whole made a few big plays against the offense — including multiple interceptions of quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do. Get the ball and create turnovers. That’s good,” reflected Reed. “That’s what we want to do in the season, so everything starts in practice.”
They were still in shorts — so not at full-contact or full-speed — but they’ll get the opportunity to take it up a notch on Tuesday when they put on their shoulder pads.
“It’s real football, Reed asserted. “When you put the pads is on when you can let the pads do the talking. That’s the time you really get to thump, get the wrinkles out, and everything gets going.”
As much as there has been to take away from camp so far, fans will really learn a lot from watching the offensive and defensive linemen go against each other in individual, full-contact drills. Practice is about to get taken to another level — specifically in the trenches — and Reed will be one of the most intriguing defensive linemen to watch.