Least Replaceable Player on each side of the line?
Well, one week into camp and so far, no major injuries have been reported or seen by fans. That is a good thing! Patrick Mahomes got his foot stepped on, and Jody Fortson has a quad issue that appears to be minor. Mecole Hardman is still fast, Skyy Moore has large hands, Travis Kelce runs like he’s 25, and Orlando Brown took his first reps.
With all that being said, who can the Chiefs least afford to lose for an extended period of time in the trenches?
So, who is the Least Replaceable Player on the Offensive Line for the Chiefs? I am going to go with Joe Thuney here. Only eight penalties in 2021, only one sack allowed, and he played left tackle when called upon by his coaches. The guy also played 1,184 snaps, ranking third in the NFL for Offensive Lineman. As of this writing, Orlando Brown has reported to camp, so that is a big positive for the organization and it keeps Mr. Thuney at his natural position of Left Guard. There are other qualified people like Creed, and Trey Smith that deserve mention here, but in my mind, Joe Thuney is the key to a successful season. Right Tackle will be a position to watch, as several candidates have emerged from camp- namely Darian Kinnard and Andrew Wylie. The Offensive line went from a huge liability to being an abundance of riches in one season. Chiefs fans should enjoy the ride, not every team has this luxury.
The KC Chiefs defensive line is not a strength of this team, at least not yet. They drafted George Karlaftis and got Frank Clark back on a reasonable deal for a veteran edge player. Mike Danna is an under-appreciated player, who quietly logs a lot of snaps for Steve Spagnuolo. The signing of Carlos Dunlap will also give the Chiefs depth and a legitimate NFL Edge presence. Despite all this, I feel the answer to the question of who we would miss the most is Chris Jones. When he plays, the Chiefs find a way to win. When he doesn’t play the games become a boat race to see who can score quicker- sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. The other defensive tackles on this team are rotational pieces at best. Chris Jones can get to the quarterback, create sacks, hurries, and stuff the run. He is easily a top 5 player at his position of defensive tackle in the NFL. He has a career 49.5 sack tally and is an overall disruptive player routinely eating up double teams. With this being said, Chris Jones is entering a contract year. Aaron Donald, the best in the game, just signed a 3 year, $95M deal. That will be the starting point for negotiations if the Chiefs want to retain a 28-year-old player in the prime of his career (and no clear choice to replace him).
I know sacks aren’t the best barometer of a successful defense, but the Chiefs had a paltry 31 sacks last season, and that must improve. The 21st ranked run defense and 27th ranked pass defense yielded a 27th overall yards allowed per game. 15 interceptions buoyed the team to an 8th overall points per game, which is all that really matters, scoring one more point than your opponent. Outside of the defensive line, the Chiefs should line up a young line backing Corp and VERY YOUNG secondary. It will be exciting to watch camp unfold over the next couple of weeks!