Melvin Ingram trade details: How the Chiefs’ deadline move keyed a defensive 180

Von Miller was arguably the biggest name traded before the 2021 NFL trade deadline and he may end up being the most shocking as well. After that, however, the best move may have been a hidden acquisition made by the Chiefs.

The Chiefs acquired defensive end Melvin Ingram from the Steelers before the deadline to bolster their defensive front. Kansas City had struggled to start the season defensively and was looking for some kind of improvement to propel them on that side of the ball.

Ingram himself has not performed at an otherworldly level for the Chiefs. He has made seven tackles and has one sack in five games with the team, so he’s not the same player who twice racked up 10.5 sacks for the Chargers. However, the veteran’s presence has had a great impact on how the team has been able to play defense in the second half of the season.

Here’s a look at how the Chiefs’ low-cost bet on Ingram has paid off and how it has helped their defense get in shape.

Melvin Ingram Business Details

  • Bosses get: FROM Melvin Ingram
  • Steelers get: Selection of the sixth round of 2022

The Chiefs acquired Ingram for the cost of a sixth-round pick. Ingram, 32, is playing on a one-year contract and had one sack and 10 tackles in six games with the Steelers before being traded. As such, it makes sense that they were able to get it for that price, but it’s also something that you should be able to easily overcome as the season progresses.

Why did the Steelers trade Ingram? It all came down to the fact that they had 2020 third-round pick Alex Highsmith on the roster and he was ready to make an impact as a rushing starter in front of TJ Watt.

As the Steelers gave Highsmith more time, Ingram’s role diminished. So, Pittsburgh figured it would save something for him before he hit free agency, since he wasn’t likely to return to Steel City.

How Melvin Ingram Has Helped The Chiefs Defense

Ingram’s presence on the outside has made a huge difference to the Chiefs’ defensive line. Why? Because he’s released star defensive lineman Chris Jones to play more inside at defensive tackle.

Jones had been a key cog in the Kansas City defense while playing defensive tackle during the Chiefs’ back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. However, the team needed more outside pressure and felt that Jones could transition to the edge and remain a critical part of the Chiefs’ defense.

Jones was solid in that new role. That said, the new Chiefs’ defensive tackle rotation was not. That’s part of the reason his defense started the season so slowly. They were weak in the middle against the run and not getting enough passing pressure from the inside, where Jones had been a stalwart.

The Chiefs realized that it would be better for Jones to play inside more often, but they still didn’t have enough depth to build pressure on the outside until they added Ingram. Once he was added, Jones shot defensive tackle more than triple as he went from averaging 7.8 plays per game at position to averaging 25.8 plays.

Since that change, the Chiefs’ defense has been spectacular. They haven’t lost a game to Ingram and are holding opponents to less than 10 points per game on average.

Situation Record Points per game allowed Yards per game allowed Sacks per game
Without Melvin Ingram 4-4 27.5 412.9 two
With Melvin Ingram 5-0 9.6 352.4 1.6

That’s not to say Ingram is solely responsible for the Chiefs ‘defensive turnaround, but his presence has certainly allowed the Chiefs to maximize Jones’ interior skill set in the passing run. And that could prove to be a valuable asset for Steve Spagnuolo as Kansas City looks to make another Super Bowl run.

Other key improvements for the Chiefs defense

The addition of Ingram isn’t the only reason the Chiefs have gone from being the NFL’s worst stopping unit to one that has allowed exactly nine points in three straight games. These are some of the other reasons the Chiefs have improved so much during the second half of the 2021 NFL season.

  1. The Chiefs bounced back. Earlier in the season, the Chiefs just didn’t have their best defensive staff on the field all together. Starters Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Willie Gay and Charvarius Ward missed every game due to injury or illness, causing problems for the team. Once everyone had recovered, the defense began to take shape.
  2. Daniel Sorensen moved into a backup role. Sorensen looked terrible to start the season and has ranked between Professional soccer approach‘Safe last five consistently throughout the season. The Chiefs began pulling Juan Thornhill ahead of him in Week 6 with Sorensen playing secondary packages. Since then, the Chiefs have allowed more than 17 points just once, while Sorensen has two interceptions in a minor role.
  3. The Chiefs cornerbacks have taken a step forward. Rashad Fenton and Mike Hughes have ranked as PFF’s No. 3 and No. 5 corners this season, respectively. Meanwhile, Ward is at 20. They’ve made an extremely effective three-man rotation at both corners versus L’Jarius Sneed, who has played nearly 90 percent of corner plays this year.

Those last two developments significantly improved the passing defense, while Jones’ movement on the inside has propped up the team’s running defense a bit. Spagnuolo deserves credit for the adjustments he’s made, and that includes the decision to change Jones’s lineup after Ingram’s arrival.