Statistics help to support or refute arguments all the time in sports. For those who watch the Kansas City Chiefs closely, however, the eye test has supplied all the evidence one needs to diagnose the defensive line has a pressuring-the-quarterback problem clearly.
Part of why this fact is becoming abundantly clear is it looks so similar to what fans have witnessed for the past few seasons. If a pass play doesn’t include one of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s patented blitzes or defensive tackle Chris Jones dominating an offensive lineman one-on-one, it has been rare to see opposing passers under any duress.
Against Buffalo on Sunday, some of the problems could be attributed to a depleted secondary that forced Spagnuolo to call soft zone coverages that Bills quarterback Josh Allen could pick apart very quickly when the opportunities were presented. The limited experience and depth at the second and third levels of the defense forced the Chiefs to go more blitz-heavy than they otherwise may have — and even then, blitzing more than they already did Sunday may have been wise.
Defensive end Frank Clark had some positive moments Sunday that deserve a little recognition as an accompanying piece to Chris Jones.
Frank Clark had some quality rushes Sun - burst and quickness is certainly there.— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 19, 2022
More times than I realized live in the stadium, the four man pass rush suffered from having soft zone shells behind them that Allen quickly combed through. pic.twitter.com/S1btF6nfnZ
In this review, we will take a look at some potential trade targets that could help this pass rush get them over the hump the next time they meet the Bills.
Quinn, 32, has had some incredible seasons throughout a 12-year career that started in St. Louis as a defensive end with the Rams at the time. He now plays for the Chicago Bears, his fourth team.
Quinn posted 11.5 sacks with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, followed by 2.0 sacks for Chicago in 2020, a whopping 18.5 sacks last season, and he now has just 1.0 sack here in 2022 so far. The production has been very up and down, but he offers a speed-rushing skill set the Chiefs are severely lacking right now. In a season like the current one for the Bears, where they are clearly rebuilding, it complicates things for established veterans who know they don’t have a long-term future.
Looking at some of the DEs who fit what the Chiefs lack right now - Robert Quinn comes back to mind.— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 19, 2022
Spags connection is already there from STL days. pic.twitter.com/mqgoa9O97I
It is worth mentioning that Steve Spagnuolo was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams when Quinn was drafted back in 2011 — he thought quite highly of the player’s fit into his defensive scheme.
A slow start combined with his age and salary means it wouldn’t take much trade compensation to nab Quinn. The biggest hurdle to this becoming a reality is the financial component: the Chiefs would not be able to take on his full remaining contract.
The 24-year-old Carolina Panther is the hot name floating about league-wide trade discussions — even despite the franchise being fairly non-committal to the idea of trading away a young cornerstone piece. He has 4.0 sacks this season and 29.5 total in 54 games.
The hot name for fans who want a pass rusher this year - Brian Burns.— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 19, 2022
Elite speed threat. The type of burst the Chiefs haven't had since Dee Ford, but is it worth the price to get him to KC? pic.twitter.com/NnpF4iiXKG
When considering a trade for Burns, fans should expect the cost to be very similar to when Kansas City acquired Frank Clark. It would require at least one first-round draft pick in 2023 and likely more picks overall. He would need a contract extension north of $20 million per season and probably closer to $25 million.
Burns is less of a body type fit for what Spagnuolo has liked throughout his career. He is very lengthy, but light in weight. This makes him more dependent on speed and quickness to defend the run, again, something Spagnuolo does not prefer.
Burns is the best player all the names you have probably seen linked as potential trade options — that’s why ultimately fans shouldn’t expect him to go anywhere this year. Even if Carolina is willing to negotiate, the price is likely too steep for Kansas City to make a move.
Not that Josh Allen, Chiefs fans. This one plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars — formerly coached by current Chiefs defensive line coach Joe Cullen who was the defensive coordinator for Allen last season.
The 'other' Josh Allen - probably not up for grabs but have to ask the question with a new regime there, contract coming up soon, they drafted Travon Walker.— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 19, 2022
He has a really nice blend of abilities -- athletic freak. pic.twitter.com/4SIJ3UjPwW
This player again falls under the same type of category as Burns. We could copy and paste the parts about trading prime draft resources and needing to sign Allen to an expensive contract extension — it would still hold true. Allen has 3.0 sacks so far in 2022 and 23.5 total in 46 career games.
The differences show up more with Allen’s build and style of play. He has the same height as Burns but is 10-15 pounds heavier. The speed is top-notch, but he may not be as fast as Burns. He does, however, flash a little more power and nuance to his skill set.
If the Chiefs go after either one of these young, blue-chip types of edge rushers — it will say a lot about what they think of the unit as it stands now. It will also show they don’t believe they can find superior options at the position in the coming offseason and want to get out ahead of the problem for 2023.
The bottom line
Defensive play in football will always be an 11-man operation — plus coaching — so it’s not as simple as just adding one guy to the defensive line and making everything perfectly fine out of nowhere.
The defensive line will first benefit from returning players at the linebacker level and in the defensive backfield. Better run-defending performance would enable the pass rushers to pin their ears back more frequently.
A team can never, ever have enough high-quality pass rushers, though — so regardless of what anyone thinks about the current defensive line room, there remains room to get better and perhaps add a Super Bowl-level difference-maker to the roster.