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The Chiefs’ elite pass defense starts with the ‘no-names’ up front

Some of the most important players in Kansas City’s defense are some of the least known.

Kansas City Chiefs v New York Jets Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Amid the best defensive season in the Kansas City Chiefs’ recent history, there are plenty of headlining players available to lead the unit. While defensive tackle Chris Jones is the star of the show, cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie have earned a name for themselves — and linebacker Nick Bolton has been spelled by playmakers like Willie Gay Jr. and Drue Tranquill.

But those are just some of those in a group that is tied for the league lead in points allowed per game (15.9). The unit is stacked with quality players like Mike Danna, George Karlaftis, Derrick Nnadi and newcomer Charles Omenihu — and head coach Andy Reid knows it.

“It starts up front,” Reid told reporters on Thursday. “You have a couple of no-names up there that don’t get a lot of credit — with Danna being one of them; he is playing really good football right now. George is a year improved — and playing real good football. Nnadi gets no credit — I don’t think he wants the credit— but he doesn’t get any credit; he’s a stout player inside. Charles is coming on… that’s a nice addition to that mix.”

Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Two of those no-names top the team’s sacks leaderboard: Karlaftis has six and Danna is at 5.5. Obviously, part of this stems from the extra attention Jones continues to receive from opponents’ offensive lines (although he also has 5.5 sacks).

“Thankfully, I have guys that have been excelling around me,” Jones said on Thursday. “[Like] George Karlaftis, Mike Danna [and] Tershawn Wharton — [who is] is having an outstanding year so far. We have to keep it up [and] take advantage of our one-on-ones. As long as we’re able to do that, I’m able to get free and cause a little havoc.”

Jones went into the bye week on a streak of three games without a sack. But during that time, the team racked up 14 sacks. Even though his contract incentives are based on Jones’ individual success, he is hyped up about that production.

“I’m making sure George has a career year [and] making sure Mike has a career year,” revealed Jones. “That gives me excitement. I feel like I contributed to that a lot. I put a lot of energy — and invest a lot — in those guys. So to see those guys go beyond what they expected? It brings joy to me.”

Kansas City Chiefs v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Jones’ dominance has laid the foundation for a team that currently has the league’s third-most sacks. His own three-game dry spell is bound to end — and no one in the building will be caught off guard if more sacks come in waves after that.

“Chris will get his when it’s all said and done,” insisted Reid. “He does so much for us — attitude-wise and play-wise.”

In what looks like the biggest game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles (and quarterback Jalen Hurts) on Monday night, the Chiefs’ defensive line will need to play with their heads as much as their bodies.

According to Danna, that begins with preparation.

“What happens on Sundays is just what we do throughout the week,” he told reporter Aaron Ladd in the locker room on Thursday. “To carry it, we just have to keep working on it throughout the practice week, keep on listening to Coach and just do [our] job. Everyone is dependent on you to do your job — and that’s what we’re here to do.”

That mentality has led the Chiefs’ defense to become one of the league’s deepest groups — especially up front. And if Danna continues to play so well, he won’t be a no-name much longer — because he’ll be signing a handsome free-agent deal this spring.

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