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5 Questions: Chiefs without their ‘only difference-maker’ on defense vs. Lions

We got a chance to chat with Arrowhead Pride’s Tom Childs about the NFL season opener between the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

As the clock creeps ever so closer to the NFL’s season opener between the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs, the old adage is true: a watched pot never boils.

But in Detroit, the flame’s been on high for months, and it feels like it’s on the verge of boiling over. As far as sporting events go, it’s real, real hard for me to think about a sporting event in my adult life where I’ve sensed just how much—and how many—people are anticipating this football game. Despite some of the news about Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce suffering a hyperextended knee, but seemingly avoiding serious injury, and Chris Jones holdout now spilling into the regular season, it’s only stoking the flames.

All that being said, we would never pass up the opportunity to get some intel from the opponent’s perspective. We called on Tom Childs from to give us a look into who the Chiefs are as they head into a season as the defending Super Bowl champions—while the Lions have big aspirations of their own.

[Senior Editor’s note: It’s an absolute pleasure for me to be doing the “5 Questions” series for the website this year. I’m so looking forward to coming up with good, thoughtful questions to help bring our readers insight and perspective they could only get from the kind of passionate and informed fans SB Nation has to offer. I’m excited to be here with you in search of learning just a little bit more about the other teams, players, and coaches around the league—and I’m glad you’re here for it, too.]

We should probably start by addressing the 6-foot-6, 300-pound elephant in the room: Just how much does the absence of defensive tackle Chris Jones impact this defense, and more specifically, do the Chiefs have a player who can at least replicate some of the stuff Jones does and that they want to be able to do defensively as a unit?

Never has a story taken so long to build up but then go on to escalate so quickly. Just a week or so ago, I was still convinced that Chris Jones would show up for Week 1. Call it naivety on my part, but the old man in me thinks a player should mostly honor a contract—especially when said contract is paying him $20M plus. But que sera, this is where we are at in Chiefs Kingdom now—and frankly put: I hate it.

Optimists around believe that the Chiefs can have a functioning defense without Chris Jones, but I just don’t see where the Chiefs will generate a pass rush from?! No doubt Spags [defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] will dial up blitzes that will have positive results, but it’s on the downs when the Chiefs have to rely on one of four guys getting home that scares me. Chris Jones was the only player on the defensive line that I would categorize as a difference-maker. The other guys like Turk Wharton, Derrick Nnadi, etc. are good role players—but it’s the presence of Jones that takes the group up a notch or two.

Ben Johnson will be licking his lips at the thought of Jones not playing.

Both head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson mentioned how impressive—and athletic—Kansas City’s linebackers are in the lead up to this game. Many of their top contributors are Day 2 picks the Chiefs made in recent drafts, so can you share why that process has started to take shape and what it is about their athleticism at the linebacker position that makes them so impressive?

The youth movement on defense has been a ‘thing’ in Kansas City for two or three years now. I think the Chiefs realized that financial resources should be prioritized for the offensive line. At the end of the day, protecting Pat should be Brett Veach’s priority. Because of this, huge sums of money have been thrown at Jawaan Taylor and Joe Thuney—and it won’t be long until the same can be said about Trey Smith and Creed Humphrey.

The Chiefs have essentially been forced to go younger on defense. Up until the last two seasons, edge defenders and cornerbacks were the forgotten position of Day One and Two of the draft. However, in the past two seasons alone, three of the top 32 picks have all been spent on those premium defensive positions.

“his probably ties into why the Chiefs and Chris Jones’ camp can’t find a deal. The Chiefs know that they will continue to throw draft picks at the defense regardless.

But the one position Veach has never forgotten about is linebackers. I should have done some more research, but I would be very surprised if any other team has spent as much draft capital in recent years on linebackers as the Chiefs. Nick Bolton was a round two pick that massively divided opinion upon his arrival — others felt that Willie Gay Jr. was a ‘Veach Reach.’

It’s safe to say that the doubters have been proven wrong.

Bolton is wise beyond his years and has become the leader of the Chiefs defense. Gay Jr. Is a little bit rawer but has the big-play ability in him. Together, they are a tandem that has more than enough smarts and athletic ability to control the second-level.

Even the backups are worth mentioning here: Leo Chenal is a thumper of a backer who has been flashed at the line of scrimmage from time to time—and the latest addition to the squad, Drue Tranquill already appears to be a guy that perfectly complements the skills of Bolton and Gay Jr..

Dan Campbell and Ben Johnson have been paying attention.

The Chiefs spent five of their seven picks in the 2023 NFL Draft on defense, including using their first-round pick to draft edge defender Felix Anudike-Uzomah—the second year in a row they’ve drafted an edge in the first round after taking George Karlaftis in 2022. How many of these defensive players drafted by Kansas City do you expect to find roles as early as the season opener this Thursday?

I mean, who else is going to play at this point? Frank Clark is in Denver, Charles Omenihu is suspended, Chris Jones is hanging out with Michael Bay, and Carlos Dunlap is chilling on his sofa waiting for the call from Veach.

I hope my answer didn’t come across as too blunt, but there will have to be an over reliance on the freshman and sophomore edge players—oh, and Mike Danna.

As you can imagine by the answers so far, I am really excited about watching the Lions’ offensive line vs the Chiefs’ defensive line...

On offense, the Chiefs have proven to be virtually immune to taking any real discernible step back despite missing on a first-round running back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire and trading away Tyreek Hill. This offseason, there’s been some shuffling along the offensive line, specifically at both tackle spots. With the loss of Orlando Brown Jr. to Cincinnati and Andrew Wylie to Washington, does the Chiefs offense just keep humming along, or is some concern warranted?

Yes, we have lost Orlando Brown Jr.—trust me, that isn’t that big of a loss. Yes, we have lost Andrew Wylie—but we’ve replaced him with a $20M right tackle. Yes, there is some turnover at receiver. I actually think we (sorry, the Chiefs) are far more diverse and loaded than ever. So yeah, not particularly worried.

And to add to all of this, Patrick Mahomes is another year older and is just now entering his prime. Oh my...

As Mahomes gets older and wiser, so does the decision making. With more weapons than ever at his disposal, I do think we are less likely to see the miracle throws—instead opting for a ‘take what the defense gives’ approach.

What separates Mahomes from other quarterbacks is that he takes it and then some.

Bold statement: I think this will be the most efficient offense of all time.

Congress held those UFO hearings back in July, but I didn’t see or hear one acknowledgment about how all of us have been watching alien life here on Earth line up under center for the Kansas City Chiefs the past five years. Care to comment on how the Chiefs keep trotting out an extraterrestrial to throw the football around for three hours a week and nobody can figure out how to stop it? Thanks.

I get asked this every single week, no lie. At this point, I just don’t think you can. Even on his bad days, he is better than half of the league’s quarterbacks. The key to beating the Chiefs is taking every possible opportunity to score points possible. Even then that is no guarantee for success—just ask the Philadelphia Eagles.

Teams need to be ultra-aggressive.

Fight fire with fire where possible and more importantly, DO NOT KICK OR PUNT THE BALL. Honestly, do not waste a gameday activation on those guys. For sure, teams need a bit of luck, but they can also help themselves too by leaving their punter and kicker at home.

What scares me about this particular game is that smart dudes like Ben Johnson and Dan Campbell know this. That is why I am predicting a one-point game.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook for the latest odds surrounding this game. With the ever-changing news of both Chris Jones and Travis Kelce, the odds are constantly shifting before Thursday’s kickoff.

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