The Chiefs offensive line will have to be able to handle all that is brought unto them this season. With a new quarterback, there will be changes to defensive schemes and how the offense is supposed to respond. That being said, let’s continue our roster projections with the offensive line.
Offensive Linemen on the current roster: Eric Fisher, Cam Erving, Mitch Morse, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mitchell Schwartz, Bryan Witzmann, Jordan Devey, Andrew Wylie, Parker Ehinger, Kahlil McKenzie, Ryan Hunter, James Murray, Bentley Spain, Ethan Cooper, Alex Officer
Bringing the Beef – Outside
The offensive line will have some work to do this season, especially seeing how the starters performed in the first preseason game against Houston. It was only two drives and Patrick Mahomes still completed five of his seven pass attempts, but Mahomes took too many shots considering how much he played. Progression will likely come throughout the season, as offensive linemen can find their grooves and build off week-to-week performances.
Now, let’s take a bigger look at the starting five. First, Mitchell Schwartz was paid handsomely when he signed with Kansas City and he has been stellar. Schwartz has shut down the likes of Von Miller multiple times in big time division games. His ability to stop pass rushers allowed Alex Smith to sit comfortably in the pocket and roll out if needed. He is also reliable, as he has started all 96 games in his career without missing a snap. The Chiefs were lucky to get Schwartz, and looking back, it’s very surprising to see that Cleveland did not make more of an effort to resign him in 2016.
On the opposite end, Eric Fisher has never seemed to live up to what the fans expected from him. Fisher was the number one overall pick in 2013, and for the most part, he has done alright. The biggest downside has been the penalties, and most have occurred in big moments, for example, the Divisional Round playoff loss against the Steelers in 2016. Where Fisher has excelled is in the run game. Not that he is dreadful in the passing game, but Fisher gets lateral very well and his reach allows runners to bounce outside and find more ground with ease.
Bringing the Beef – Inside
The inside part of the offensive line is a bit underrated, starting with center Mitch Morse. His leadership is evident and he speaks with a heavy heart. Morse has dealt with some injuries the last couple of years, but he has done a good job of playing through them and getting back on the field.
Then there is Laurent Duvernay-Tardif; this man can do it all. Every season he continues to improve and become one of the better guards in the league. This improvement is good to see, as he joined Kansas City as an unknown. Players deserve tremendous credit just as much for things they do off the field, as well. A major accomplishment for Duvernay-Tardif happened this past offseason. Duvernay-Tardif graduated medical school back in May and he has mastered the multi-tasking very well. Above all, medicine remains his passion. Things continue to look up for Duvernay-Tardif, as he still has a lot of time left on his current contract.
Finally, we look at Cam Erving. Erving was a first round pick in 2015 by the Cleveland Browns and with the dysfunction surrounding the franchise, the pick became an instant waste by the team. The Chiefs acquired Erving in a trade right before the regular season last year and he ended up playing in 13 games. He brings a lot of versatility to the offensive line, which is what Zach Fulton brought to the Chiefs in past seasons. But now, Fulton is with the Texans. The Chiefs did decline Erving’s fifth-year option, so he will become a free agent after the season. That makes 2018 an important season for Erving to perform well.
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Hopefully, there are no injuries, but there is still a desire to see players that don’t win starting jobs get better. Bryan Witzmann and Jordan Devey have done a fair job in past seasons when getting a shot, and they are virtual locks to fill up roster spots as guys that can do what is needed when called upon.
For the other two backup spots, I see it coming down to three guys. First, there is Parker Ehinger who suffered a devastating knee injury in the middle of his rookie season in 2016 and has hardly been at the same level since. It has been a tough time getting back to himself and the last few preseason games will need to be good performances for Ehinger to make the team. Guard Ryan Hunter is another guy that I believe is on the roster bubble. The Chiefs signed him as an undrafted free agent this offseason and he is drawing plenty of comparisons to Duvernay-Tardif. Will he continue to impress like he has early on in training camp?
Finally, Kahlil McKenzie is the other one I see as a tough decision to make for the Chiefs. When the Chiefs drafted McKenzie, it was assumed that he would continue to play defensive tackle like he did at the University of Tennessee. The Chiefs are trying to transform McKenzie into an offensive lineman, and so far there has been a steady progression. What McKenzie brings is plenty of size and strong legs up front. When the final cuts are all made, maybe all three of these guys could make the active roster. But for now, I see two of these three making it with one going on the practice squad.
Final depth chart:
LT: 1) Eric Fisher 2) Bryan Witzmann
LG: 1) Cam Erving 2) Kahlil McKenzie
C: 1) Mitch Morse
RG: 1) Laurent Duvernay-Tardif 2) Jordan Devey 3) Ryan Hunter
RT: 1) Mitchell Schwartz
That will do it for the Chiefs offensive line projections. We will now move on to the defense next time, as the defensive line will have plenty to look at. As always, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage for great sports content.