The Kansas City Chiefs, under the guidance of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, are off to a remarkable start this season.
Much of their success can be attributed to the growth and development of promising young talents like Trent McDuffie, L’Jarius Sneed, and George Karlaftis, along with the consistent All-Pro performance of Chris Jones.
However, one player who has been quietly making a significant impact on the team’s defense this year is Derrick Nnadi.
Nnadi, who was part of general manager Brett Veach’s first draft class, stands out as the sole member of that class to secure a second contract with the Chiefs.
Despite multiple contract renewals, he has consistently inked deals at the veteran minimum level. In his initial contract season, Nnadi experienced a decline in his performance, which diminished his value in the league.
Nevertheless, the Chiefs opted to retain him for the 2022 season, despite having relegated him to a backup role due to his struggles.
This season, Nnadi has experienced a career resurgence, aiming to prove that he still possesses the ability to perform at the level he exhibited early in his career.
During the offseason, Nnadi dedicated himself to physical conditioning, working to add strength and weight to anchor himself in the middle of the defensive line.
This effort has paid dividends for the Chiefs, as he has outperformed his previous season’s statistics through the first seven weeks. One standout achievement is his impeccable record of zero missed tackles this season.
This aspect of his game is crucial, as it prevents ball carriers from advancing to more favorable positions on the field, consequently benefiting the defense.
Another noteworthy improvement in Nnadi’s performance is his increased count of defensive stops. Pro Football Focus defines a defensive stop as a tackle that constitutes a failure for the offense.
Nnadi has already amassed seven such stops in seven games, surpassing his total of five from the previous season.
Although he has yet to record a tackle for loss this season, it is anticipated that these will come, given his impressive missed tackle rate and his ability to disrupt plays, forcing the opposing offense into unfavorable situations.
Additionally, Nnadi has already recorded a batted pass, an accomplishment highly valued by the Chiefs’ defensive coaching staff, especially when a player cannot reach the quarterback.
Nnadi’s remarkable resurgence comes while he has been the lone active nose tackle in every game this season.
The Chiefs have placed a significant burden on his shoulders, requiring him not only to perform well but also to log most of the early-down snaps—a deviation from the traditional responsibilities of the nose tackle position.
Nnadi has embraced this challenge and excelled in his role thus far. While the Chiefs have invested in other nose tackles, they continue to have faith in Nnadi’s ability to deliver consistent performances.
They will rely on him to maintain his current level of play as the defense aims for further improvement in the coming weeks.