Throughout the length of the 2020 season, the Kansas City Chiefs biggest weakness was the offensive line. They were able to mask it to a degree during tough matchups. Players like Nick Allegretti, Mike Remmers and even Austin Reiter showed improvements in weekly spans. Meanwhile, the unit was thriving during the first two playoff games. But then, Eric Fisher got hurt.
This led to a change at three different positions up front going into Super Bowl LV. And ultimately, the Chiefs band-aid covered blocking unit succumbed to the Tampa Bay pressure in the biggest game of the year. Patrick Mahomes was pressured on 52% of his drop backs, the most of any quarterback in Super Bowl history. Kansas City already had a big need on the offensive line this offseason. That is now a major problem for one of the NFL’s better teams entering the spring.
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Bucs Overpower Backups
Being down to four backup offensive linemen left the Buccaneers being able to lick their chops. Their ability to get after Mahomes with natural pressure of four rushers looked effortless. Remmers and Andrew Wylie were unable to handle the speed of Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett. The Chiefs’ interior struggled with the power and strength of Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea. And this was not just the case in sets where Kansas City had used five blockers.
We saw on the first drive that Tampa Bay dropped seven back into coverage. And still, they worked through the weaker blockers when they used chips or extra numbers to help. Mahomes did all he could and tried to carry as much of the load as possible. Most of all, the Buccaneers were a more prepared team in the optimum team sport.
Large Decisions Loom
The draft will offer a strong offensive line class this April. However, there is only so much that rookies can bring to the table in year one. Positively speaking, both Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Lucas Niang should return after opting out of the 2020 season. One would think the Chiefs and Kelechi Osemele may have some mutual interest in reuniting as well.
On the other hand, the injuries of Mitchell Schwartz and Fisher did not just complicate matters on the field. It makes for trying decisions this offseason. Do other teams have major questions regarding the salary cap and whatever that number ends up settling at? Yes. Though, the Chiefs will be needing to save money or move allocations around in some way, shape or form. Both of Fisher and Schwartz could be possible restructure candidates. It would make more sense for Fisher, who holds a base salary of $11.25 million in 2021. That is also the last year of his current contract.
Elsewhere, other roster decisions will come into play with players like Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Bashaud Breeland and more. Other salaries for guys like Chris Jones, Frank Clark and Anthony Hitchens are worth being tinkered with too.
How Does Offensive Line Adjust?
Looking at some of the additions the Chiefs made to the offensive line for 2020, we could see a change in their trend come to greater fruition. With the draft pick of Niang and the late signing of Osemele, it appeared that Andy Reid and Brett Veach wanted to instill more physicality into the blocking unit. Coincidentally, that was one of the main issues in the Super Bowl LV loss. The physical nature of the Buccaneers defensive line, but also on both sides of the ball, was clearly not matched by the Chiefs.
Do we see Kansas City add more maulers going into 2021 and beyond? If so, will they alter their blocking techniques and assignments? Combination blocks and double teams worked at certain points this season. Yet in the Super Bowl, it was no match. The Chiefs will have another decision to make schematic-wise in order to remain near the top of the NFL landscape.
Possible Draft Strategy
We have already begun some of our 2021 Chiefs draft prospect profiles here at FPC Chiefs. Offensive line will obviously continue to be one of our main focuses. So how does Kansas City possibly go about fixing this weakness come April?
For starters, they will likely need to select not just one, but multiple offensive linemen. They currently are projected to hold eight picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see the Chiefs double down with blockers who can play on the interior. They could add another offensive tackle piece in the draft class as well. Additionally, we could some maneuvering up and down the draft board.
Yes it is potentially a deep offensive line class. Nonetheless, separating the great additions from the good ones will be crucial. This becomes difficult in the COVID affected draft cycle. Tape study will be more important than any other preparation. Moreover, making that decision to sit at 31st overall in the first round or moving up will be critical also.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout this week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.