The Kansas City Chiefs defense has been the franchise’s Achilles’ heel in 2021.
We all know this by now, but one of the main reasons behind the poor play is the health of defensive lineman Chris Jones. The superstar game-wrecker is the straw that stirs the drink on this side of the ball. Quite frankly, it’d be like playing offense with an injured Patrick Mahomes, Jones is that influential.
The disruptor has been dealing with a wrist injury that directly impacts his ability to rush the quarterback and make tackles. It’s caused his 2021 output to take a hit since Week 1 when he recorded two sacks and two tackles for a loss.
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Update From Andy Reid
After reporters identified Jones as a non-participant in Friday’s practice, his chances of playing on Sunday Night Football certainly took a hit. Head coach Andy Reid addressed the matter during his October 8 press conference, via Herbie Teope of The KC Star.
“We’ll see how he does here in the next couple of days,” said Reid, adding that Jones can “absorb a full workload” on Sunday without practicing throughout the week.
This is some obvious coachspeak from Big Red, but it officially makes Jones a game-time decision against the Buffalo Bills. That’s the last thing Chiefs Kingdom wanted to hear going up against a 2020 MVP finalist in Josh Allen and an offense that’s close to Kansas City’s level of dynamic.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jones has been the Chiefs’ second-highest graded defender so far this season with a 69.6. Only four players with 40 snaps or more on the defensive side have marks above 65.0.
The other 16 Chiefs with a relevant snap count are below that margin, and 12 of those players have a grade that is sub-55.0. That means 80% of this unit has performed below average according to PFF and 60% has been downright terrible.
That’s inexcusable, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo should definitely take a considerable portion of the blame.
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Contingency Plan Without Jones Is Scary
The Chiefs’ run defense has been their worst area this year, not that the pass defense is great. After last night’s Thursday Night Football game, KC has now dropped to 31st in the NFL against the run.
That’s on the bodies up front, led by Derrick Nnadi, Jarran Reed, Michael Danna and the aforementioned Jones. The top run D grade of the four has been the man that may miss Week 5, and Jones only has a 57.3 in this category.
The others have been atrocious against the ground game and the defensive tackles are the worst of the worst. Nnadi has a 40.8 score versus the run and Reed has a 46.2. The even scarier question — who replaces Jones if he’s out?
Alex Okafor is the likely candidate at defensive end, with Tershawn Wharton and Khalen Saunders as the depth on the interior. I probably don’t have to tell you that these guys have been just as pitiful.