Chris Jones has elevated to star status in the NFL for his play on the interior of Kansas City's defensive line at defensive tackle. While he's inside of the top 10 in sacks over the last three seasons while dominating on the inside, the Chiefs are looking to add another layer to the 26-year-old's game to further help their ability to get after the quarterback. Over the last few offseason practice sessions, K.C. has been spotted deploying Jones as a defensive end, which is something defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo later said he hopes to utilize throughout the 2021 season.
"He is an imposing player inside," said Spagnuolo, via ESPN. "We all know that. ... Hopefully, we will gain something on the edge. When somebody changes a position, obviously the first part of it is the mental part of it. Chris is working through that. That's important when you change a position. It's just not that easy to pick up a whole new spot. There are some different things with a defensive end. He'll play out there a little bit. We'll move him back inside when we have to."
Spagnuolo theorized that Jones kicking out to defensive end in the regular season could largely be predicated on the upcoming matchup. If there is a weakness that can be exploited with Jones coming off the edge, the Chiefs will act accordingly. If he's better suited to play his familiar defensive tackle position, that's the route to go down that week.
"We've just got to get him used to playing the two spots right now and figure out the rest of it," he said.
Adding the ability to use Jones as a defensive end is a clear attempt by Kansas City to boost a pass-rushing unit that has been on a downward trajectory as of late. The club's 32 total sacks in 2020 were middle of the road throughout the NFL ranks and 13 fewer than what they produced in 2019.
As head coach Andy Reid noted, a driving force in the Chiefs being able to even have the conversation of moving Jones to defensive end is thanks to the signing of defensive tackle Jarran Reed earlier this offseason. The former second-round pick's presence now gives the defense some flexibility to use Jones how they deem to be most valuable heading into next season.
Specifically with Jones as a defensive end, Next Gen Stats had him lining up as an edge rusher 42 times last season. He notched a 16.7% pressure rate over that stretch, which compares similarly to fellow defensive chess piece Aaron Donald with the Rams, who finished last season with a 23.4% pressure rate on the quarterback during his snaps coming on the edge in 2020.