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The chief expressed satisfaction with George Karlaftis “relentless” performance during his ten-sack season

Jan 6, 2024 #Andy Robertson

The Kansas City Chiefs’ passing attack ranks as one of the best in the NFL this season. A big reason for that is the improved play of sophomore defensive end George Karlaftis, who reached a pretty big milestone in the team’s recent win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

With 1.5 sacks in Week 17, Karlaftis surpassed the 10-sack threshold for the first time in his career. The 30th overall pick in last year’s NFL draft went from 10.5 games to 16, well above the 6.5 sacks he recorded over a full 17-game season as a rookie.

Karlaftis also added 14 tackles and six quarterback hits. The former Purdue Boilermaker appears to have made good progress in his sophomore campaign.
Speaking with the media this week, defensive line coach Joe Cullen praised Karlaftis for achieving one of the most important milestones a lineman can set before the start of his career. According to Cullen, this is a result of Karlaftis’ hard work and trust in the coaching staff to help him succeed.

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“He’s had a really good year and he’s been working really hard,” Cullen said. “Sometimes it’s a breakthrough, sometimes you don’t achieve it, but you may have had the best year ever,” he said.

George worked really hard, worked tirelessly, and came through when it mattered. As a result of the sack at the end, Coach Spags made some great decisions, putting his players in position and relentlessly tracking down the quarterback. “As happy as George was, I think Chris (Jones) was even happier about it.”

There’s more to it than just this jump. According to Pro Football Focus data for the 2023 season, Karlaftis recorded 64 pressures on 453 passing snaps. That’s 15 more than in 2022 despite 73 fewer reps in the pass rush. Among offensive linemen who have played at most 20% of snaps (117) this season, he ranks 16th in pressures and 10th in rushing. His winning percentage is 43rd.

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We might as well apply some historical context to what Karlaftis is doing. Especially considering he will still be 22 years old until April. With 16.5 career sacks, he now ranks in the top 10 all-time for most sacks before a player’s 23rd birthday. He’s tied with Brian Burns and Elden Smith for the most points, and if he gets sacked during Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, he has a chance to soar even higher.

do not misunderstand. Karlaftis is still an incomplete player. Although his passing ability has gradually improved this year and he has become faster and more flexible, there are still clear limitations to his play. Many people describe him as a “slower” and more demanding player, which is true. Instead of being the true alpha on defense, he’s the perfect DE2 and a strong player on the defensive line.
However, this is ideal for the Chiefs’ current goals.

With Jones leading the way, great depth like Mike Danna and Charles Omenihu, and a great secondary, Kansas City could be the sum of its parts. The franchise has invested back-to-back first-round picks at defensive end, providing interesting floor cap and long-term cap space. Karlaftis probably offers more of the former than the latter. Nonetheless, his improvements are warranted. The team will be very happy if this becomes his new normal.

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