Breakout Players: D-Line

Breakout Players: D-Line

By Jack Johnson, Sports Radio 810 Contributor

The Chiefs are going to have questions surrounding their defense when the team
breaks camp weeks from now. However, one unit that may have the most question
marks is the defensive line — more specifically at defensive end.
Earlier this week, Los Angeles prosecutors charged Frank Clark with one felony
weapons violation from his arrest on March 13. Though it’s up in the air on how that
situation plays out, it doesn’t change the fact that Kansas City needs someone to step
up on the edge.

As things currently stand, the Chiefs are starting Clark and Taco Charlton on the
outside. Chris Jones has the ability to slide outside when Jarran Reed and Derrick
Nnadi are in the game, but how many snaps he takes there is a mystery. Without a free
agent addition, that leaves Joshua Kaindoh, Tershawn Wharton, Mike Danna, Tim
Ward, and Malik Herring as depth up front. With that list, who has the best chance of
breaking out?

1. Taco Charlton, 26, 2017 1st round pick (Dallas), Michigan
Charlton was a low-risk, high reward signing for the Chiefs last offseason and before a
season-ending ankle injury, the latter appeared to be coming to fruition. In seven
games, Charlton tallied four quarterback hits and two sacks. With a chance to start on
the opposite edge of his former college teammate in Clark this season, Charlton has the
best chance of producing breakout numbers. However, there’s reason to be skeptical.
Charlton has started in just 12 of his 44 career games and has never had more than five
sacks in a season.

What works in his favor, though, is that Jones will be taking on double teams on the left
side of the line — leaving Charlton with a chance to win his one-one-one matchups. Is it
a foregone conclusion he can consistently do that? Well, no. But the Chiefs will have
their answer sooner rather than later.

2. Tershawn “Turk” Wharton, 23, 2020 UDFA, Missouri S&T
Chiefs fans got their first taste of Turk Wharton last season when they least expected it.
Not only did the undrafted free agent appear in 16 games, he also started one. In his
rookie season, he racked up 14 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two sacks. In
November of last season, Wharton had the fourth-most QB pressures (11) among
rookies — behind Chase Young (2nd overall pick), Derrick Brown (7th overall pick), and
Javon Kinlaw (14th overall pick). Those totals named him to PFF’s Midseason
All-Rookie Team.

In all likelihood, Wharton won’t be starting. However, his ability to bring relentless
pressure on passing downs makes him an intriguing candidate on the front seven.
Wharton’s potential to break out solely relies on how defensive coordinator Steve
Spagnuolo utilizes him.

3. Joshua Kaindoh, 22, 2021 4th round pick, Florida State
If there was a phrase that encapsulated the Chiefs’ 2021 NFL Draft, it would be
“diamonds in the rough”. With its final four picks, Kansas City selected Kaindoh, Noah
Gray, Cornell Powell, and Trey Smith. All of those picks have a shot to be taking
first-team or second-team reps this season.

Of all their selections, there might not be one with more raw potential than Kaindoh. The
former five-star recruit from Bradenton, Florida battled injuries in college, as he played
in 10 games over his final two seasons at Florida State. Fortunately for Kansas City, his
strengths are something to keep an eye on. At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, his length, speed,
and power give him potential to be an effective pass rusher. That length also benefits
him defending the run on the outside.

On the other hand, the injuries are a cause for concern with how much development he
needs. However, on the off chance he comes along quicker than expected, the Chiefs
have a freak of nature at their disposal on the line.