Off-Season Film Session 3: Mitchell Schwartz

Note to the reader: This is the third review in what will be a series of off-season film reviews featuring some of the best plays of members of the Chiefs Super Bowl 54 winning team. It’s a long offseason so I hope to cover most of the major contributors for the team. There will be a small break in the series of reviews around draft time as well as free agency to highlight new additions to the team. Leave comments in the articles or on clips I post on Twitter about which players you would like to see, the more comments for a player the more likely it will be they are featured quicker.

2019 was a season of excellence for the Kansas City Chiefs, their players, and all of Chiefs Kingdom. With all the stars and big names that made up the roster, it could be easy to overlook one of the biggest (literally) keys to this team’s success. Mitchell Schwartz had a season for the books this year. Pro Football Focus gave him a season grade of 84 overall, which was enough to earn a Second-Team All-Pro nod again for the third time in his career. While all that may seem impressive, the most impressive part of his season was the fact that he never gave up a sack. To play tackle in the NFL, Left or Right, this is incredible. Given the pass rushers Schwartz faced this season this makes it even more impressive.

One of the reasons Schwartz doesn’t get his due is because he plays on the right side of the line, and is not a name brand LT. That is the reason he is not in the Pro-Bowl every season despite his outstanding play in the last four seasons as a member of the Chiefs. He is the rock of the offensive line and perhaps the biggest key in protecting Patrick Mahomes.

Schwartz stands 6ft4 and his listed weight is about 320 pounds. He is by no means a freak of nature athletically but where he excels and the biggest staple of his game is that his technique is routinely flawless. That combined with his high football IQ make him hard to beat. In the NFL consistency is key and Schwartz was nothing but consistent this season.

Above he shows a textbook technique for handling an inside pass rush move. He’s one on one with the DE and as the end starts to work back inside Schwartz drops his left foot and lets him inside but then quickly makes contact on his punch and uses his strength to wash him down the line of scrimmage. He even finishes the play by pancaking the end to the ground. This sends a message, as well as opens up a giant window for Mahomes to work with, as he connects on his pass to Sammy Watkins for six.

For every move a pass rusher has, Schwartz has an answer and a counter that will ensure he can win. Here Schwartz invites the DE to throw his move first. Watch as he goes into his rip to the outside as Schwartz almost at the same time uses his inside hand to knock down the defender’s arm and gives Mahomes another clean pocket to throw in. This was a tremendous counter move and will keep any DE second-guessing which moves will work.

While Schwartz is a brick wall in pass protection, his run blocking is also very fundamentally sound. The Chiefs want to run inside zone, and Schwartz does a good job of staying patient and keeps his hips on a good angle when he attacks the ROLB. He also throws an excellent punch with his left hand to create an extension. McCoy has to improvise his run due to the pressure over the RG. The whole time Schwartz stays off his man and McCoy ends up making his cut off of the block. Schwartz did a great job to keep moving with his man and finishes him with a big shove at the end of the play. On an NFL offensive line if a player has a chance to knock someone down they must take advantage of it every time.

This play is beautiful for so many reasons but none of it is possible without the block by Schwartz to free Sherman on the screen pass. On every screen pass, linemen are assigned a certain man to block and a certain path to take to get there. Schwartz has to improvise because his man comes on a blitz, but instead of blindly running at him he stays in his pass pro demeanor inviting the LB in closer. Every screen is set on a timer inside a linemen’s head for when they should leave the LOS to go downfield. This was PERFECT timing and a great kick out block to open up a big lane for Sherman to rumble and he nearly scores a touchdown. By following his screen rules with discipline and having some football savy Schwartz makes a great improvised play.

Schwartz isn’t the most physically gifted athlete but he does have tremendous strength when locked on in pass protection. He locks on selling run on this long developing play but then drops his hips and keeps his iron grip on Josh Allen. No matter where Allen tries to go, Schwartz, is there. He keeps his feet moving the entire time. On a lot of the long Mahomes’ passes it is completely overlooked just how long the OL as a unit has to hold their protections.

The play below is just the kind of attitude you want from your All-Pro RT. Schwartz makes a good initial block but as the run moves upfield watch him stay with his man and drive him till the very end. He plays until the echo of the whistle. He even draws a small reaction from Maxx Crosby, who he locked down all day. It’s this kind of play that can simmer in a defensive player’s mind and throw them off their game.

Above we can see the good use of a quick set, just another tool in Schwartz’s book. It is a much more flat type of pass set that can catch a pass rusher off guard. Here he uses it to initially contact the defender and throw off his rush, and as the defender has to react Schwartz resets his hands and wins the rep. Having multiple tools and techniques is key for pass protection in the NFL.

This is an outstanding vertical pass set and really shows just how quick Schwartz is out of his stance. The pass rusher tries to throw a move but has to take his hands off as Schwartz had great anticipation to knock his hands down and prevent him from getting to Mahomes.

Schwartz essentially wins this rep with one arm. Schwartz knows an outside rush is coming, from a much quicker defensive end. Schwartz contacts the outside arm of the defender basically forcing him outside and making sure he couldn’t win the rep back inside. One arm is all it took to get the job done on this rep.

Here the Chiefs decide to go with power off of a draw look. The DE crashes inside hard but Schwartz is alert to this and by running his feet after making contact with his man, he manages to knock his guy several yards down in the wash and opens up a nice lane for a pick up of about six yards. He shows great discipline in recognizing the inside path from the DE and not giving an inch up to allow the back to cut and make the play.

Former Chief Justin Houston is still one of the strongest players in the NFL and still has one of the best bullrushes even in year nine. Schwartz does an excellent job of matching power for power here. Houston goes with the big bull, but being the mountain he is Schwartz takes on all the contact without giving up too much ground. He then resets his hands and is able to knock off Houston’s hands with a double inside swipe to stall the rush. Schwartz is most comfortable in a fist fight against power players. However, throughout his career he has been very comfortable vs pass rushers who have utilized speed and athleticism.

Von Miller has been the best pass rusher in the NFL over the last decade. He has a Super Bowl ring and multiple other honors to his name as well as 106 career sacks. Not one of them has come against Mitch Schwartz. To knock off the beast that had grown in the Denver Broncos, KC knew they would need someone to defeat the pass rush. By signing Mitch Schwartz in 2016 the Chiefs found their answer to a lot of the equation. Miller attempts to go wide and use his patented dip and bend, which can beat stiffer less athletic tackles. In the clip below Schwartz stays true to his training and with a beautifully quick vertical pass set he is able to wall off Miller just enough for him to overrun his target.

Miller wants to take it right to Schwartz here, going with a long arm into a power move. He makes contact with the chest early but Schwartz quickly knocks the arm down with his inside hand. As Miller tries to go back outside he runs into a wall. With one small swipe of his hand, Schwartz managed to win within less than a second. His ability to fight off moves from more athletic defenders is unparalleled in the NFL.

Going against Joey Bosa he is all by himself on the right side. The assumption that only the LT is blocking solo every play is outdated. Teams have multiple good pass rushers, like the Charges with Bosa and Melvin Ingram. That means each tackle, especially in the Chiefs offense will get about the same amount of time one on one. Bosa uses an inside rush, which Schwartz stops, but then Bosa counters back with a spin to the outside. It by no means looks pretty but the little shove at the end and forcing Bosa to go outside gives Mahomes just enough time to scramble for a first down. It’s not always pretty and it’s not always planned but that is life in the trenches.

Schwartz has an underrated nasty streak. As Travis Kelce motions over on the snap he and Schwartz get into a double team of Ingram on the edge. They seal Ingram and Schwartz stays on as Kelce works up to the next level. Ingram attempts to disengage but then Schwartz delivers a shot to his body, knocking him clear off his feet and taking him out of the play. Some will call it a block in the back but as Ingram turns to run Schwartz delivers a shot right into the rib/hip area. This is a sweet spot for landing a punch as an offensive linemen.

Speaking of landing a shot, a year’s worth of frustration from losing a home AFCCG might have come out on this play against the Patriots in New England. Kyle Van Noy drops into coverage and decides not to rush. This gives Schwartz a perfect opportunity to clean someone up. As the inside rusher works his way upfield Schwartz wastes little time destroying his hip. This was a shock to the defender and sent a message to the rest of the NFL that there is a new team on the block. Football is a physical game and for the Chiefs to take the ultimate prize they needed to beat up on their old demons, literally. What a better guy to set the tone than the literal stone of the offense.

Death, taxes, and Mitch Schwartz. All certainties in life. 128 games played and 128 games started. In fact, in his eight-year career, he has only missed three-game reps, which happened this year against the Tennesee Titans on the road in week ten. He came back into the game and would go on to battle the next 10 weeks to help get the Chiefs their first Lombardi Trophy in 50 years. Schwartz playing hurt was a very underrated story on the Chiefs run as it got nearly no attention at all. Such is life on the offensive line. In order for the Chiefs to maintain the current level of success they have seen this season they will need to keep Patrick Mahomes healthy. Schwartz has been a key component to this so far in his career. A leader of a unit that was criticized at times this season, but one that came together to form great chemistry down the stretch. The Chiefs could not have accomplished any of what they have in the last four years without their stone upfront.

After the Super Bowl concluded Schwartz came up to hug Andy Reid and the old O-linemen and OL coach gave his rock a kiss on the forehead. This alone showed how important Reid knew Schwartz was in winning this title. From hours of training to hours of film and playbook study, Schwartz is the most consistent of all the Chiefs. An unbreakable rock and an unsung hero.