While the Kansas City Chiefs ultimately fell to the Chicago Bears 19-14 in Saturday's preseason opener, they were dominant early when the regulars were on the field. Among the game's highlights was the performance of EDGE rusher George Karlaftis — the 30th overall pick in April's draft.
Karlaftis looked unstoppable at times against the Bear's second-team offensive line, sacking veteran quarterback Trevor Siemian for a 10-yard loss in the second quarter and almost racking up two more sacks.
"It was great to go up against someone else," Karlaftis said of Saturday's game. "New opponents and all that stuff. Kind of test where you're at and see how things are going. It was a great first taste."
The rookie also demonstrated a team-oriented approach when discussing his first (preseason) sack.
"It was good to get a big third-down stop," he said of the play, "and give our offense the ball back."
Karlaftis also acknowledged that he would need to improve so that he is no longer hearing about near-sacks after games.
"It's the 'almost' — I think the inches of the game," he observed. "I think that's a big difference between the NFL and college. Getting there versus almost getting there — there's a big difference. That's just something you have to take back to the drawing board and practice on and work at in order to get those 'almost' to being sacks."
The former Purdue Boilermaker will also waste no time getting started on film study to improve on Saturday's performance.
"I'll probably watch it on the way to the airport," Karlaftis claimed.
In spite of the young player's hard-on-himself evaluation, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid appeared pleased with what he saw.
"I thought he did some good things," Reid observed. "I thought the [defensive] line – those first couple units — played well. They put pressure on, and Karlaftis was part of that. He had a sack, he had another chance for a strip sack, and was close on another sack. He was pretty productive there.
"He's a sharp kid. He wants to do the right things. He talks to everybody – all those veteran players, he asks questions. He's not afraid to learn. He's got a good d-line coach that can teach him. I guess he's a sponge right now with all that."
From the other side of the ball, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes expressed admiration for what he has seen from Karlaftis, both in Saturday's game and in team practices.
"He's going to go hard the entire time," Mahomes explained. "That's just who he is; that's what gotten him here. I think he'll keep crafting his skills every single week to get better and better. He's a guy that works extremely hard."
The biggest star in the sport, however, was able to identify a major shortcoming he saw in his new teammate.
"The only thing we need to work on is his celebration," Mahomes joked of Karlaftis' reaction to the sack. "I don't know what that was. He did a double arm flex down? I've never seen that one — at least go up with the flex if you're going to do something. We're going to work on that, and we'll get back to you."