“I think Kansas City’s got two sincere issues, right tackle’s not playing good offensively and right corner, [number] 21, not playing good,” challenged Orlovsky.
He may not have been as critical as Clark, but the former NFL QB singled out two players, in particular, Lucas Niang and Mike Hughes. The latter was a fill-in that was only starting because of injuries to Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton, but both are expected to return in time for Week 5. The Chiefs’ right tackle is the real story here.
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Niang Failing to Live up to Predecessor
This spring, Kansas City decided to make a very difficult decision when they released veteran right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Not only was the nine-year blocker a three-time All-Pro (first-team in 2018), he was an ironman that didn’t miss a start in his first eight consecutive NFL seasons.
Unfortunately, the sturdy offensive tackle’s body finally gave out on him as a back injury forced him to miss most of 2020. In the end, Schwartz needed surgery and the Chiefs decided to cut ties with the vet.
While some may view this as coldhearted, it’s the way of the league and general manager Brett Veach already had a contingency plan in place when he drafted Niang in the third round of 2020. The TCU product was the natural successor to Schwartz. The only problem is that he has failed to live up to his predecessor.
According to Pro Football Focus, Niang has been solid as a run blocker but his pass protection has been poor. He currently holds a run block grade of 75.1 and a pass block grade of 55.1 with his best outing being Week 2 in Baltimore (75.0 and 72.2 respectively). Here’s a positive rep from the youngster, highlighted by none other than Schwartz himself.
The second-year player’s worst performance was probably against the Los Angeles Chargers, allowing six quarterback pressures, but Week 1 wasn’t great either (five quarterback pressures, including one sack allowed). Niang has been penalized in every game besides the Ravens one, but he’s only allowed 12 pressures total on the season.
That means outside of those two nightmarish starts in Weeks 1 and 3, the “weak link” of the O-line hasn’t been all that detrimental despite a 48.4 pass protection grade in Week 4. The talent is there, he just has to play with some more consistency.
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Chiefs OL Faces Stiff Competition in Week 5
As the Buffalo Bills come to town in Week 5, along comes a budding rivalry that began in the 2020 postseason. The Chiefs took down the AFC challengers in last year’s championship game and it was never really that close, so expect the Bills to come prepared in the rematch.
The Buffalo defense currently ranks first in the NFL in both points and yards allowed per game. They have 12 sacks on the season and the pass rush comes from all over the place, as the franchise flaunts nine different players that have brought down the opposing quarterback. Of note are edge rushers Jerry Hughes and Gregory Rousseau, per Bills reporter Matt Parrino.
That means Orlando Brown and Niang will have their work cut out for them, but this entire line will have to band together including rookies Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith. Left guard Joe Thuney has been the stabilizing force thus far.
Chiefs fans have witnessed Patrick Mahomes running for his life this season all too often. You can get past the bottom-feeders of the NFL with a subpar offensive line and a lousy defense, but KC has been exposed against tougher competition. The Bills may be the most complete team that they’ve faced so far this season, and that could mean trouble if players like Niang don’t step up.