Analysis

The ironic optimism for Chiefs’ offensive line

Despite the loss of right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the Kansas City Chiefs have signed and kept a mix of talent, experience, and youth on the offensive line of scrimmage.

When Duvernay-Tardif announced he would be the first player to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season, there became a starting spot to fill at right guard for the Chiefs. In response, the Chiefs signed 31-year-old Kelechi Osemele.

After being selected in the second round in the 2012 NFL Draft, Osemele has only played left guard, the opposite side of Duvernay-Tardif. That has remained the same in camp, as he has taken reps with the first team at left guard. Osemele only started three games last season, after a torn labrum required season-ending surgery.

The Chiefs plan to leave Osemele where he has started 96 total games, been awarded a First-Team All-Pro award in 2016, along with two Pro Bowl selections in eight seasons. Going into his ninth season, Osemele will bring experience that can help ensure the offensive line unit continues to develop in the near future.

The player expected to replace Duvernay-Tardif is Andrew Wylie. Despite starting 11 games at left guard last season, Wylie has experience playing on the right side, where he started 10 games in 2018.

The undrafted lineman has proven to be an essential and flexible piece for the Chiefs since his arrival in 2018. After a championship season, Wylie resigned to a one-year deal, in which he has an opportunity to make a statement and have a breakout season during his contract year.

After an appearance in the AFC Championship in 2018, the Chiefs lost an essential piece. Center Mitch Morse received a lucrative, four-year, $44.5 million deal to leave Kansas City for the Buffalo Bills.

To replace Morse, the Chiefs have used seventh-round pick Austin Reiter, who started every game last season. At 28, Reiter has shown to be a trustworthy piece, and with his experience last season, there could be an improvement from him next season.

Where the Chiefs should have the most confidence is at the tackle position. It feels like a lifetime ago, but after the Chiefs finished 2-14 in 2012, they drafted tackle Eric Fisher first overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Fisher has remained a reliable piece, even earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2018.

Then to the right side, tackle Mitchell Schwartz has been an incredible addition to the Chiefs. Not only has he never missed a start in 128 games dating back to his time with the Cleveland Browns, but he has performed at a high level. In 2018, Schwartz was awarded First-Team All-Pro honors.

Fisher and Schwartz are both talented and experienced pieces for the offensive line. The two must look to take leadership positions to get Osemele comfortable with the offense, as well as elevating Reiter and Wylie to new heights.

Since quarterback Patrick Mahomes was granted the starting job in 2018, the team has primarily passed the ball. Last season, they ranked twenty-third in rushing yards per game, while being ranked fifth in passing yards per game. These numbers show one thing, linemen for the Chiefs right now are expected to be great pass blockers and protect their quarterback.

The lineman allowed 1.7 sacks per game last season, according to TeamRankings.com, which is fifth-best in the NFL. Keeping Mahomes safe in and out of the pocket is essential for their success.

With the first-round selection of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs will look to pass even more so. Edwards-Helaire caught 55 passes last season at Louisiana State University en route to a national title.

The offensive line for the Chiefs is set up for a successful 2020 campaign. With Schwartz, Fisher, and Osemele to hold leadership positions, Reiter and Wylie will have to continue to be reliable pieces to protect their franchise quarterback, and with championship experience, improvement for the younger pieces is realistic.

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