Should Chiefs worry about sagging pass-rush production?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Defensive end Frank Clark is far down the NFL's list of sack leaders. He has four, which is second on the Kansas City Chiefs behind the 5.5 for defensive tackle Chris Jones but is tied for 38th leaguewide.

Clark isn't worried. He has been in similar positions before, most recently last season when he had one sack in his first six games but finished the season with eight before notching five more in the playoffs.

"I don't trip about stuff like that and I know my teammates ain't really tripping, especially Chris," Clark said.

But should Clark be worried? Should Jones, and should the Chiefs? They got one quarterback hit, by Jones, and zero sacks in Sunday night's 35-31 victory over Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Chiefs paid big money to Jones and Clark -- on average $20 million per year through 2023 for Jones and $20.8 million through 2023 for Clark -- to lead their pass rush in games such as Sunday's in Las Vegas, but they aren't always getting results. They are 21st in sacks per opponent dropbacks, at 5%, though they are leading the NFL in pass-rush pressure, which they are getting on almost 40% of the opponent's dropbacks. So while the Chiefs are frequently affecting the opposing quarterback, getting him off his spot or rushing a throw, they aren't as often creating the negative-yardage plays that can get the opposing offense off the field quicker.

Carr finished Sunday's game completing 74% of his passes with a passer rating of 119.7.

"Would we like to be finishing with more sacks to create negative plays and get us off the field?" defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo asked. "Absolutely. But I think if we can continue to affect the quarterback, I think that works in our favor. Hope those will come, the sacks."

Defensive line coach Brendan Daly said, "You can look at the stats and they can tell a story. I'm not sure they tell the whole story for you. It's fractions of inches in this game. The difference between a quarterback hit and a sack, between a sack and a sack-forced fumble, is fractions of seconds."

The Chiefs haven't been getting those fractions of late, including the two games against Carr and the Raiders. Without having to worry about pressure, Carr threw for a combined 622 yards and six touchdowns against the Chiefs.

"A lot of things have to do with [defensive] calls and stuff like that, too," Clark said. "I'm dropping more than I usually dropped over the years. We've done a lot more dropping in coverage. A lot more [offensive] checks stop us from [pass rushing]. We might be in a defensive call you're excited about -- you're pass rushing! -- but the offense might show you something else. They might show you a screen."

Clark and Jones aren't dropping into coverage often. Clark has been in coverage 10 times this season, Jones eight.

The Chiefs signed Jones to a new contract this summer hoping he would be as productive as the past two seasons, when he had 24.5 total sacks. Jones has been bothered much of the season by a groin injury, though he has missed only one game.

"I love sacks with a passion," Jones said shortly after signing the new contract. "I love to pass rush. I can pass rush every day. It's my passion. It's my dream. It's my goal. It's the love of my life, pass rushing.

"I always put pressure on myself whether it's this or not, whether I got a contract or not. I'm still putting pressure on myself to be the best I can be, and that is to win that MVP. Win the best defensive player of the year in the league. I put that pressure on myself every year, so I can challenge myself."

The Chiefs have 19 sacks this season, which is tied for 19th. They had 45 sacks last season, so if they're to match that total, they need a strong finishing kick.

"In short, we just need more sacks," Clark said. "I want more sacks from my defensive line. We need way more sacks. It's not enough.

"There are defensive lines out here that aren't nearly as good as we are. They get what they get. It's no shame to anybody else, but it's just understood of what we've got and we've got to work with. We're a team that easily have five-plus sacks a game. We'd be leading the league in sacks at the end of the day."