Chiefs' new-look offensive line remaining intact so far
Includes three rookies, two other newcomers
By DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs trotted out what amounted to three rookies to help protect their half-billion dollar investment at quarterback in their first preseason game a couple of weeks ago. The best evidence that their new-look offensive line has performed at least adequately to date is that the group remained intact for the preseason finale at home Friday.
Orlando Brown Jr. was still at left tackle. Joe Thuney was still next to him at guard. Third-round pick Creed Humphrey was still snapping the ball to Patrick Mahomes with fellow rookies Trey Smith at right guard and Lucas Niang at tackle.
"They're getting there. We still have plenty of room to go," said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, a former offensive line coach who still harbors quite an affinity for the big boys up front during training camp.
That the same five that opened the Chiefs' 19-16 win at San Francisco in mid-month was back on the field to begin the last one at month's end was a positive sign.
The team completely overhauled the offensive line after injuries and opt-outs forced them to use a makeshift group in the most important game of the 2020 season.
When the collection of backups and off-the-scrap-heap fill-ins were dominated by Tampa Bay's Buccaneers in the Super Bowl, general manager Brett Veach wasted no time rebuilding from the ground up.
Long-time left tackle Eric Fisher was out, a casualty of injury and expense, with Brown brought in as the centerpiece of a massive trade with Baltimore before the April draft.
The 25-year-old Brown has been to two Pro Bowls in his first three seasons, although there are questions about whether his pass blocking will catch up to his dominant run blocking in an offensive system that puts so much emphasis on Mahomes making plays downfield.
"I've been working on with Patrick, really just getting a feel for it," Brown said after the exhibition opener.
"You know, as a left tackle and an offensive lineman period, it's always good to know where your quarterback wants to be, what he wants to do, what he's thinking in certain situations. And that can help me react or put my player wherever I need to put it, so (the quarterback) can do what he needs to do best."
The Chiefs signed Thuney, widely regarded as the best available guard, during free agency. Many considered Humphrey the best center in the draft. Smith fell to the sixth round because of some question marks in his medical history, but he was given a first- or second-round grade by many scouts that saw him play at Tennessee. Niang was a third-round pick by KC a year ago, but opted out of the season because of COVID-19, missing a year of experience.
"I'm so happy for all three of them," Brown said of the first-year starters. "It's a great opportunity that they have, especially playing for an organization like this — and Patrick, man, I mean, it's such a blessing, such a great opportunity for them to come into in this league, man. You know, I got high hopes and high praise for them."