Chiefs Poach Rookie Pass Rusher From Super Bowl Contender

Benton Whitley

Getty Former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Benton Whitley during training camp.

The Kansas City Chiefs received some difficult news this week when they found out that linebacker Willie Gay Jr. would be suspended for four games effective immediately.

That meant the Chiefs would lose Gay for several challenging opponents including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills, but it also meant that Kansas City had an open roster spot to fill this week and general manager Brett Veach acted swiftly in doing so.

Rather than bring in a free agent, Veach decided to go young and target a prospect that his front office had its eye on. That player was former Los Angeles Rams defensive end, Benton Whitley, who KC stole away from the NFC Super Bowl contender.

Chiefs Sign Benton Whitley off Rams Practice Squad

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid announced the move within his opening statement at his September 21 press conference but the signing also appeared on Wednesday’s NFL transaction log.

The undrafted rookie played college ball at Holy Cross and was a fifth-year senior in 2021. Whitley logged 15.5 sacks over 42 games for the Crusaders, as well as 111 total tackles (79 solo, 26.5 for a loss). He added two passes defended and one forced fumble.

Weighing in at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, the 23-year-old pass rusher was scouted as a D-end with “very good flexibility, average size and straight-line athleticism,” by The NFL Draft Bible.

The Sports Illustrated film scout went on: “Displays great bend and agility which allows him to flatten back to the quarterback while accelerating. Whitley beats slow-footed blockers with horizontal pads by crossing their face with his lateral quickness. His hand placement on pass rush moves is very good, being consistently on time and on target… Whitley recognizes oversets and counters inside. Showing mental alertness, he gets his hands into throwing lanes in the quick game.”

His major critiques centered around a lack of explosiveness and “violence” as both a pass rusher and a tackler. Because of this, The NFL Draft Bible considered him a “liability in the run game” out of college.

“Whitley projects as a developmental pass rusher who has desirable traits with his agility and should be a capable special teamer,” they concluded. “If he can add significant strength in the NFL, he can become a rotational player.”

Being that the Chiefs were offering him a 53-man job, they were able to poach him from the Rams organization with zero resistance.

The Search for a Pass Rusher Continues

Kansas City has spent the entire summer bringing in edge rushers from big names like first-rounder George Karlaftis and veteran Carlos Dunlap to developmental pieces like Azur Kamara, Kehinde Oginni Hassan, and Matt Dickerson — some of which are already gone.

Despite all of these attempts to fix this issue, the Chiefs have struggled to create pressure off the edge with one lone sack from a defensive end over the first two weeks (Dunlap). Players like Karlaftis and Mike Danna have done a decent job disrupting the passer with 17 quarterback pressures combined — per Pro Football Focus — but most of the sacks have come from the interior defensive linemen so far.

Chris Jones leads the team with two and fellow D-tackle Tershawn Wharton has one. Jones also leads the roster with 12 QB pressures.

With Danna ailing from a calf injury, Whitley may get the opportunity to earn some pass-rushing snaps in practice this week. We’ll see if the Holy Cross product shows enough to stick around while Gay is sidelined with his suspension.