Nothing is more important than Patrick Mahomes being protected
by: Chris Thomas
Following the end of Super Bowl LV, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line has been under the microscope because of their poor play during that game. The Chiefs were without their Pro Bowl tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz due to injuries and the rearranged line limited one of the leagues best offenses.
It doesn’t take looking at the numbers to see the impact of the offensive line on a team who went 14-2 and made it to the Super Bowl. Anyone who watched the game could see how important their bookend tackles were to their success. However the numbers also pointed out how limited the Chiefs offense was with their makeshift offensive line that night. During the regular season the Chiefs offense averaged 29.6 points per game during the regular season and 30 points per game in the first two games in the playoffs. But during the Super Bowl was only able to put up nine points. Former league MVP Patrick Mahomes averaged 316 passing yards, 2.4 passing touchdowns, 24.4 completions, 36.8 passing attempts, and 0.38 interceptions per game during his 15 regular season starts. During the Super Bowl with a limited offensive line Mahomes had a stat line with 270 passing yards, zero passing touchdowns, 26 completions, 49 passing attempts, and two interceptions.
What happened during that game made upgrading the offensive line a major priority for the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason. The moves Kansas City made this offseason to retool their offensive line not only has a major impact on the teams success next season but the rest of the league.
What the Chiefs did to their offensive line this offseason
In shocking fashion the Chiefs decided to cut both Fisher and Schwartz early in the offseason that saved the team $18.3 million. It was shocking to see Kansas City cut both of them because if left them with the same unit that essentially cost them the Super Bowl. However Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach, decided to use that cap space to retool their offensive line. The headline addition to the offense from free agency was former Second Team All-Pro and New England Patriot Joe Thuney. They also signed former three time Pro Bowler Kyle Long out of retirement along with former Rams starting center Austin Blythe. Kansas City will also have two players who opted out of the 2020-21 season returning to the team who could start for them in guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and 2020 Third Round pick Lucas Niang.
Less than a week before the draft Kansas City made a blockbuster trade with the Baltimore Ravens acquiring Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr., 2021 second round pick (Nick Bolton), and a 2022 sixth round pick for their 2020 first round pick (Jayson Oweh), 2020 third round pick (Ben Cleveland), 2020 fourth round pick (was traded back to select 2020 fifth round pick Shaun Wade and add a 2022 fourth round pick), and a 2022 fifth round pick. The Ravens traded Brown Jr. away because he wanted to make the full time transition to left tackle which the Chiefs will allow him to do.
During the draft Kansas City also added Oklahoma Center Creed Humphrey, who many considered to be the best center in the draft, with the 63rd overall pick in the second round. They also drafted Tennessee Guard Trey Smith with the 226th pick in the sixth round. If not for the concerns created by the blood clots in his lungs he would have likely been a Day 2 pick.
How the additions to the offensive line impact not only the Chiefs but the rest of the league
It isn’t farfetched at all to say that Chiefs revamped offensive line could be a lot better than the line they had last year or even the unit from their Super Bowl season. They have added two former Pro Bowlers, a former Second Team All-Pro, and three promising young players via the NFL Draft. Kansas City has upgraded their starting line and has added some great depth to back them up and avoid what happened late last year.
So if the Chiefs offensive line is that much better than they have been the past two seasons it begs the question, what is stopping Kansas City from being better in 2021-22. A better offensive line can only mean better overall offensive production for the Chiefs passing and running game. If the Chiefs offense plays better next season than they have the past two seasons Patrick Mahomes could win his second MVP in four seasons and the Chiefs could play in their third straight Super Bowl.
Barring injury, if the Chiefs offense is more dangerous next year than they have the past two seasons there is no one that could stop them in the AFC and possibly the entire league. The fate of the Super Bowl contenders in the AFC rest in the hands of the Chiefs offensive line. If the Chiefs offensive line plays at an elite level it would be hard to imagine another team stopping or limiting Kansas City’s offense enough to defeat them late in the year. It may be harder to imagine many teams outscoring the Chiefs offense as well.