In the aftermath of the Kansas City Chiefs first exhibition game, we didn’t see much of the starting offensive line that will open the season next month against the Detroit Lions. However, we saw just enough to realize this unit intends to create an impenetrable pocket for Patrick Mahomes.
As was the case after their Super Bowl LV loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs, General Manager Brett Veach knew he had to blow up his offensive line after Super Bowl LVII. If you remember, two seasons ago, he jettisoned long-time starters, Eric Fisher, and Geoff Schwartz on the outside, and a trio of interior linemen that failed to protect Patrick Mahomes in his lone Super Bowl loss.
In their place, he added Left Tackle, Orlando Brown via trade with the Baltimore Ravens, signed Joe Thuney via free agency, and drafted center Creed Humphries and Guard Trey Smith. That line was good enough to win a second Super Bowl in February, but once again, Veach had to upgrade the tackle spot.
Early in free agency, Veach signed former Jacksonville Jaguars Right Tackle, Jawaan Taylor to replace Andrew Wylie who signed with the Washington Commanders in free agency. The plan was for the Chiefs new signee to switch from right tackle to left tackle. Within the fan base, there was pushback that Taylor could make that transition. Even though it might be challenging, Taylor is twice the tackle of the man he could replace on the left side of the line.
Orlando Brown, Jr was a serviceable left tackle, but he didn’t have the athleticism or mauler prowess that Head Coach Andy Reid, wants from his tackles. When Brown departed for the Bengals in free agency one year removed from turning down a mega contract offer from Kansas City after the 2021 season, it was a huge sigh of relief for the organization. Though Brown was a pro bowl player by reputation, he wasn’t nearly good enough to protect Mahomes blind side any further.
Thus, with Taylor likely moving to the left spot, Veach threw a curveball at the roster when he signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting Left Tackle, Donovan Smith. Now those that watched Smith struggle last year began to question the signing. However, he spent most of the season hurt, and that was a big factor in his inability to get a long-term contract from any team in free agency.
When the Chiefs came calling after the conclusion of the NFL Draft, Smith signed a one-year deal with incentives that could push the total value of his contract to $9 million. Soon after the signing, Reid made it clear, Smith would play left tackle, and Taylor would remain at right tackle.
On Sunday, we saw our first impression of KC’s new tackles and despite the limited snaps, you could see this line was superior to last years. Smith showed that he’s healthy and committed to protecting the best player in the NFL.
Entering his sixth year as the Chiefs starting quarterback, Mahomes has never had an elite offensive line. No offense to the five units that protected him in the past, but the 2023 offensive line has the chance to be a top-five group. If the interior of the line plays up to their standard, they should mesh nicely with the new starters on the outside.
For those of us that remember the Andy Reid days in Philadelphia, he prided himself on building a brick-wall offensive line. He wanted guys with size, strength that could pass block and run block with the same efficiency. In Kansas City, he’s had to adjust his line, but never did he have five guys that fit the Eagles mode that thrived under his coaching for nearly 13 seasons. He might have that now in KC.
In watching the game Sunday, this team certainly has some concerns on the defensive side of the ball, especially when you factor in the Chris Jones holdout. Add that to the six-game suspension of Charles Omenihu, the focus to carry the team over the first half of the season once again falls on the offensive line.
Every NFL team is gunning for the Chiefs, and that means they’ll do whatever it takes to shut down Mahomes. If opposing teams feel even the slightest chance they have an edge, they’ll attack this new line with a force unseen in years past.
But I suspect this line will be up for the challenge to give Mahomes the type of pocket he’s never had in Kansas City. If that happens, even with a plethora of young wide receivers and running backs, this offensive unit could be the primary reason, the Chiefs hoist the Lombardi Trophy again in February.