George Karlaftis’ coming out party was a big success for the Kansas City Chiefs, and it might mean their roster just got scarier.
One of the biggest—and only—issues with the Chiefs’ roster in 2021 was the lack of a strong pass rush. Defensive tackle Chris Jones was a phenomenal pass-rusher from the interior, and as a matter of fact, he was the second-most successful interior pass-rusher by win rate behind just Aaron Donald in 2021. He led the team with nine sacks last season.
At the same time, Kansas City didn’t really have anyone on the edge to complement Jones’ interior attack. Defensive end Frank Clark was a Pro Bowler, but his sacks production dropped for a fourth straight year. Even still, his 4.5 sacks were second on the team in 2021. That left the Chiefs as the only team in the AFC West without two players with at least five sacks. In an AFC West that now has arguably the best quarterback talent we have ever seen in a single division, the lack of a pass rush would prove to be a big problem if not fixed.
That’s the context with which Karlaftis enters the picture.
The 30th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Karlaftis was the fifth edge rusher off the board. While he was by no means up to the level of Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux when it came to talent at the position, he still would have been worthy of an earlier pick.
He isn’t lengthy, but the power he’s able to generate with his hands makes him a more than formidable opponent for an offensive lineman. Pair that with his extensive arsenal of pass-rush moves and hand counters as well as the red-hot motor that makes him relentless, and Karlaftis suddenly becomes an even harder man to block.
All of that was on display when Karlaftis made his NFL debut when the Chiefs took on the Bears in Chicago on Saturday afternoon. On the Bears’ third drive and with about two minutes left in the first quarter, Karlaftis straight up bullied Chicago left tackle Braxton Jones, knocking him all the way back into quarterback Justin Fields as he attempted a short pass over the middle. Thanks to Karlaftis’ efforts, Fields didn’t get off a clean release and the ball fell short of his target.
…think these Chiefs got themselves a good one in Karlaftis pic.twitter.com/iadWKhprs7
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 14, 2022
A bit later in the game, the rookie edge rusher showed off a bit of his pass-rush arsenal on his way to sacking Trevor Siemian. Karlaftis got a good jump off the snap, engaging left tackle Shon Coleman on his breastplate before the lineman got his hands on him. After extending his arms to create some space, Karlaftis ripped through Coleman’s inside shoulder with a nice swim move to get by him. Once he did, he regained his balance, took a nice angle to pursue Siemian out of the pocket, then finished the sack for a 10-yard loss.
The Greek Freak of the @Chiefs @TheGK3 | #ChiefsKingdom
📺: #KCvsCHI on @NFLNetwork
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/3mvoWh7UD3 pic.twitter.com/i31I3q9dFa
— NFL (@NFL) August 13, 2022
That wasn’t all. Though it won’t show up on the stats sheet as one officially, Karlaftis came within milliseconds of recording a strip-sack against Siemian.
George Karlaftis with the hand flash and bend around the corner 😍 pic.twitter.com/63VSmSfujj
— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) August 15, 2022
Aligned in a wide-9 technique, the rookie exploded off the edge, flashing his hands at right tackle Teven Jenkins before quickly dropping them and dipping under Jenkins’ outstretched arms. He was held a little so he got to Siemian a hair too late, but if the quarterback had held on to the ball even a fraction of a second longer, Karlaftis would’ve forced a fumble.
In all, the rookie edge rusher finished his first experience against professional competition with one sack, one tackle, and two quarterback hits. Sure it was against a Bears offensive line that isn’t among the NFL’s best, but the tools Karlaftis showed off in his first game as a pro are incredibly promising. For a Chiefs team that desperately needed a better pass rush even before the division grew more stacked at the quarterback position, Karlaftis is looking like the perfect addition to the roster and well worth that first-round pick.
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