The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs are going to open their regular-season campaigns while dealing with the absence of defensive superstars. Both EDGE Nick Bosa and defensive tackle Chris Jones are sitting out due to contract-related standoffs. The 49ers and Chiefs are going to miss their game-changing studs, but the Chiefs are especially not built to handle Jones’ truancy.
That’s not to minimize the impact of Nick Bosa. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year recorded a league-leading and career-high 18.5 sacks last season. The 49ers’ defensive line is just better suited to deal with Bosa’s momentary absence than the Chiefs are with Chris Jones.
Jones led all Chiefs defenders by matching a career-high 15.5 sacks throughout the 2022 campaign. The Chiefs finished second in the entire NFL with 55.0 sacks, but none of Jones’ teammates even amassed half of his quarterback takedowns. Their second-leading sack artist was rookie defensive end George Karlaftis (6.0 sacks).
Frank Clark finished third among all Chiefs defenders with 5.0 sacks. Clark was released from his contract earlier this summer and was replaced by Charles Omenihu in unrestricted free agency. To make matters worse, Omenihu was suspended for the first six weeks of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
Derrick Nnadi and Tershawn Wharton have been working as the Chiefs’ interior starters since Jones’ holdout. Keondre Coburn and Malik Herring have also received extra practice reps at the tackle spots. None of them are realistically capable of making up for Jones’ production.
Nnadi has always been a run-stopping defender with limited pass-rushing upside. Wharton is a third-year undrafted free agent who is returning from last year’s season-ending torn ACL. Coburn is a rookie sixth-round selection that’s built more in the mold of a nose tackle than a 3-tech. Herring has never been anything more than a back-end-of-roster depth piece for the Chiefs.
Meanwhile, the 49ers have more proven pieces across their defensive line outside of Bosa. General manager John Lynch signed defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a four-year contract worth $84 million in free agency. Hargrave recorded a career-high 11.0 sacks last season and should improve San Francisco’s ability to pressure quarterbacks up the middle.
Omenihu and Samson Ebukam will be missed as rotational rushers, but others appear prepared to step up to the plate. Sophomore Drake Jackson is a breakout candidate after totaling 4.0 sacks, 16 total pressures, and nine hurries as a rookie despite playing less than 30% of the 49ers’ total defensive snaps. A healthy Arik Armstead will be welcomed back into the fold after being limited to four regular-season appearances in 2022 while dealing with a hairline fracture in his ankle.
The 49ers also took a flier on former first-round bust Clelin Ferrell. This 49ers defense has revived the careers of dwindling talents in the past and now puts Ferrell in a position to breathe life back into his career. Lynch also re-signed Kerry Hyder to a one-year deal. New defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has plenty of bodies to work with.
The Chiefs and 49ers will miss Bosa and Jones as they begin navigating through their 2023 schedules. Jones’ absence looms a little larger due to the Chiefs’ inexperienced replacements.
- Sep 29, 2023
- Sep 29, 2023