The Kansas City Chiefs will have a few new faces in the mix along the defensive line this season—starting with the local guy in former Grandview High School standout Xavier Williams, who comes back to his hometown team after spending the past three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
Williams is known for his ability to stand up against the run, which is obviously an important trait for a guy who will spend most of his time lined up in the middle of the trenches for the Chiefs' defense next season.
In fact, the folks over at Pro Football Focus had Williams as their top defensive tackle in the NFL last season in terms of "run stop percentage" at 14.5—that's the percentage of plays Williams was on the field for a running play and was responsible for a stop, and it was the best mark in the NFL.
"It's kind of a well-known fact that if somebody runs on you, they're beating you down mentally and physically and it makes for a long game," Williams recently explained. "It establishes an attitude for the offense that they can do whatever they want to you. You don't want them feeling like that.
"It was kind of drilled into me while I was in Arizona," Williams added. "We were always a top run defense and my main mentor there, [Cardinals nose tackle] Corey Peters, always talked about it. He would say, 'We're nose guards. No matter what, if they run the ball, it's going to reflect badly on us.' You just keep that in your mind and that's how you keep your job."
The opportunity for Williams to join a defensive line group that's led by veteran Allen Bailey, who is entering his eighth year in the league and a bunch of young and talented players like Chris Jones and others is something he enjoys.
"I like them. It's a young group, we're all around the same age, and I think a lot of guys are hungry," Williams noted. "Not a lot of them have made their name in the league yet and they have something to prove. They want people to take notice, and I like that."
Jones has slowly been making a name for himself playing a position that doesn't always get the flashiest of headlines, but he's steadily become one of the better young defensive linemen in the NFL since being selected by the Chiefs in the second round two years ago out of Mississippi State.
He was recently named to Elliott Harrison of NFL.com's "All-Under-25 Team," which makes sense considering Jones was ranked as PFF's No. 4-ranked 3-4 defensive end in the NFL last season.
Joining Bailey, Williams, and Jones along the defensive line heading into training camp will be veteran Jarvis Jenkins, Justin Hamilton, Stefan Charles, Dee Liner, T.Y. McGill, and also rookie third-round pick Derrick Nnadi.
Nnadi will be another interesting player to watch once we get to training camp because of his dominant play in college against the run. He seemed like a man amongst boys in a lot of cases and routinely tossed guys around with ease. That won't be as easy at this level, but he's an intriguing guy to keep an eye on as St. Joseph approaches.
There was a heavy focus this offseason put on guys who were, as Chiefs' general manager Brett Veach has routinely said, are "wired the right way," and a lot of that was in the context of getting guys who could stop the run.
Between Williams and Nnadi, who were two of the top guys available in free agency and the draft in that area—plus the addition of free agent linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who was the top available inside linebacker against the run—the issue has been addressed in multiple ways.
When those guys all get together at camp and the pads come on, that'll be something to watch.