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Why the Chiefs shouldn’t move Chris Jones back to defensive tackle

On Monday’s Out of Structure podcast, we looked into the idea of Jones moving back to his original position.

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

On the latest episode of the Arrowhead Pride Out of Structure podcast, we answered all of your Twitter questions about the Kansas City Chiefs’ 30-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

We got a few questions about defensive end Chris Jones — and whether or not the Chiefs’ coaching staff should consider moving him back to his original position: defensive tackle. Jones earned second-team All-Pro honors on two occasions as an interior lineman: 2020 and 2018. In 2018, Jones earned a career-high 15.5 sacks

So far this season, Jones has earned two sacks; each came in the first game of the season from the defensive end position. He’s earned a pressure on 9.9% of his pass-rush snaps this year. In his All-Pro seasons, Jones had a rate of at least 13.6% in each season as a primary defensive tackle.

Should Jones go back to being a full-time defensive tackle?

Matt Stagner and I don’t believe so; we had three reasons why he shouldn’t be moved back right now.

1. He’s been better than you think

Jones hasn’t filled up the box score like a player who was hyped up to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but he’s still been very impactful on the edge.

In Week 1, he made two game-changing sacks — one right before the half to prevent the Cleveland Browns from scoring any more, along with another in the fourth quarter that led to a failed possession.

In Week 3, Jones didn’t register a sack. But he did tie for the team lead with four pressures — one of them a quarterback hit. He had a few chances at a sack where quarterback Justin Herbert just got rid of the ball too quickly. One was on the first touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Williams, when Jones made quick work of the right tackle and had a free shot at Herbert — but a busted coverage allowed for wide-open, quick throw. The Los Angeles Chargers also constantly ran away from Jones; one of the times they ran towards him, he gobbled up running back Austin Ekeler for no gain.

2. He’s still green at the position; he has time to get more comfortable there

The Week 2 performance was where it appeared Jones struggled the most. But for a defensive end — especially one who is still new to the position — the Baltimore Ravens’ offense is a very hard scheme to defend. For much of the time, the option plays they run put edge players in unwinnable positions — and their constant misdirection doesn’t make it any easier.

The more repetitions he gets, the better Jones will understand how to defend the complexities of that kind of scheme. In Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles, he’ll get another shot at a team that likes to run their quarterback with options.

By the time they’d potentially see the Ravens again, Jones is likely to be more prepared and comfortable to excel on the edge.

3. A healthy Frank Clark impacts Jones’ versatility

While Matt and I agree Jones should be given a longer leash as a starting defensive end, we also agree that he needs to be moved around more, playing more snaps as a situational defensive tackle — especially as a pass rusher.

One reason we haven’t seen it enough is that defensive end Frank Clark has missed two of the team’s first three games; when he played in Week 2, Jones saw more snaps at tackle.

If Jones slides inside on a given play, Clark’s availability allows the team to have better options at defensive end. Even if Clark continues to have spotty availability as the season goes on, the team may gain more trust in edge players like Mike Danna, Alex Okafor and Joshua Kaindoh — which helps them feel better about shifting Jones to the interior.

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