With five new starters on the offensive line, can the Chiefs prevent Cleveland from wreaking havoc in the backfield?
Patrick Mahomes was pressured 29 times in Super Bowl LV by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That is a super bowl record. He was only sacked three times, but he pretty much ran for his life the entire game. Now, the Chiefs were without starting left tackle Eric Fisher and starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, so they essentially played the game with mostly backups.
However, the onslaught that took place was enough for Andy Reid and Brett Veach to completely overhaul the offensive line. Enter free agent Joe Thuney, trade acquisition Orlando Brown, and three rookies to round out the front five.
These new additions will be tasked with creating lanes for second-year back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and protecting a 500 million dollar quarterback. Their first assignment: Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. While Clowney hasn’t lived up to the hype that he had coming out of college, Garrett certainly has, and then some. Going into his fifth year, Myles Garrett already has 42.5 sacks. That’s 10 more than Clowney has in a seven-year career. Garrett definitely presents more of a threat, but Clowney was the one laying down the gauntlet earlier this week.
“We love that matchup,” Clowney said in an interview with the Akron Beacon Journal. “We feel like they’re the unathletic guys. That guard position, they’re not real athletes down there.”
Trey Smith is 6’6 331 lbs. I’m sure he loved to hear that he was unathletic. Also for a guy who is already amped to play in his first NFL game, he probably doesn’t need the added ammunition.
In all seriousness though, this will be a tough matchup for the newly formed unit. Much like what the Chiefs are trying to do with Chris Jones, Clowney can play everywhere along the defensive line and Garrett will be a nightmare for whoever faces off against him.
That person will most likely be right tackle Lucas Niang. Niang is technically not a rookie but he opted out last year due to covid-19. This will be his first ever NFL game as well, but he did show promise in the preseason. He isn’t starting because of the lack of depth, he’s there because he earned it. However, his biggest test may come on Sunday.
One thing that these new linemen have going for them, is that they have Houdini back there taking snaps. Patrick Mahomes’ ability to move around in the pocket and buy more time is something that most offensive lineman don’t get to benefit from. He showed that in the Super Bowl, unfortunately to no prevail.
The offensive line doesn’t have to be perfect by any means (and they probably won’t be at first). However, if they can buy Mahomes an extra second in the pocket and allow Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, or Travis Kelce to get a fraction more of separation, this offense could be more lethal than it’s ever been before. It could also punch their ticket to a third straight super bowl.