Will the KC Chiefs generate enough sacks to win a Super Bowl?

As we enter the month of June and the long dry stretch of the NFL offseason it’s a good time for fans of the Kansas City Chiefs to reflect on the biggest questions surrounding their favorite team. I believe that the 2022 Chiefs have two huge questions they have to answer. First, can the offense still thrive without Tyreek Hill? I recently wrote about how replacing his production with a committee approach may actually be pretty realistic. The other question: Do the Chiefs have enough pass rush?

At this point, I think all Chiefs fans are on the same page when it comes to a couple of main beliefs: A.) The Chiefs did not have a good enough pass rush last season, and B.) To this point, the Chiefs haven’t done enough to address that problem.

At this point, the Chiefs have replaced Melvin Ingram, Alex Okafor, and Jarran Reed with George Karlaftis and Taylor Stallworth. While I’m hopeful that Karlaftis turns into a good player and Stallworth can be a solid addition to the defensive tackle rotation, it’s hard to make a compelling argument that the pass rush will be much better than it was last season.

Let’s look at the last 10 Super Bowl winners to see the threshold for a championship pass rush and how the Chiefs measure up.

The Chiefs had just 31 quarterback sacks last season. That was the fourth-fewest in the NFL. I realize that a good pass rush is about more than just sacks, but at the end of the day, an actual sack does more to stop opposing drives than pressures or quarterback hits. Patrick Mahomes may give the Chiefs a chance to win every game that they play, but it certainly makes his job a lot harder when the opposing quarterbacks are being sacked at such a pitiful rate.

I looked back over the last 10 seasons to see how many sacks the Super Bowl winners had in those years. I wanted to know just how far off the Chiefs are currently in terms of their sack production. In order to get an accurate comparison to what the Chiefs did last season and where they would need to be next season, I adjusted the 2012-2020 winners to what their totals would be for 17 games. Here is what I found:

2021: Los Angeles Rams – 50 sacks
2020: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 51 sacks
2019: Kansas City Chiefs – 47.8 sacks
2018: New England Patriots – 31.9 sacks
2017: Philadelphia Eagles – 40.4 sacks
2016: New England Patriots – 36.1 sacks
2015: Denver Broncos – 55.3 sacks
2014: New England Patriots – 42.5 sacks
2013: Seattle Seahawks – 46.8 sacks
2012: Baltimore Ravens – 39.3 sacks

Average team sacks for the last 10 Super Bowl winners: 44.1 sacks

The range of team sacks (adjusted for 17 games) goes from 31.9 up to 55.3. While that may seem comforting that the Chiefs were only about 1 sack off the low end of that range last season, the 2018 Patriots seem to be more of an outlier. They were 13 sacks short of the average and almost 17 sacks short of their own total from their Super Bowl-winning season in 2019.

The bottom line here is that the Chiefs need to get back to at least the 40-sack level if they want to try and win a Super Bowl next season. Is it possible that Mahomes and the offense could provide another outlier and win it all with a sack total in the low to mid-30s? Sure, it’s possible, but asking him to do that in the same season he’s adjusting to not having Tyreek Hill seems like a lot to ask — even for Mahomes.

If there is a positive light that we can shine on this situation, it is that Ingram, Okafor, and Reed only combined for 5 sacks for the Chiefs last season. That’s not a big total for KC to replace. It’s certainly possible that Karlaftis and Stallworth will beat that total, but I think asking them to total 15 sacks (which is what they would need to do to get them near the 40-sack total) next season is a little much. Maybe KC is hoping to make up some of that difference with guys like Mike Danna, Joshua Kaindoh, and Malik Herring just stepping up and contributing more, but it certainly feels like the Chiefs still need to make another move before the season starts.

The options in free agency are starting to run pretty thin. Carlos Dunlap is the best edge player available. He’s 33, but he had 8.5 sacks last season and has the size that Steve Spagnuolo likes at the position. After that, I struggled to find anyone that really moves the needle. Trey Flowers has name recognition and is younger than Dunlap, but over the past two seasons in Detroit, his health and production haven’t been good. The Chiefs could always trade for someone, but then they are likely giving away future draft picks.

I would have been on the phone as soon as Melvin Ingram signed with the Dolphins trying to lock up Dunlap on a one-year deal. He makes the absolute most sense to me, but regardless of what they do, I feel like the numbers say that they have to do something if they want to be a serious Super Bowl contender. They just don’t currently have a pass rush that is on par with Super Bowl-winning teams of the last decade.

So what do you think Chiefs fans? Are you as worried about the pass rush as I am? Are you confident that they will make another move to bolster the pass rush? Are you so confident in Mahomes and the offense that you don’t think it will matter? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

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