The biggest change from last season for the Kansas City Chiefs without a doubt is the offensive line, and rightfully so. The first big move this offseason for the Chiefs was signing former New England Patriots All-Pro guard Joe Thuney to a five-year, $80 million deal.
Then in April, they made a big trade to acquire tackle Orlando Brown Jr. Fast forward to training camp, and three rookies are also earning significant reps with the first-team offense. That’s unusual, to say the least.
Teams may typically experience a different face or two in the starting unit over the course of one offseason. But four new faces, and another (Lucas Niang, a 2020 rookie opt-out) that didn’t touch the football field in 2020, is rare. However, players like safety Tyrann Mathieu have the utmost confidence in the coaching staff when it comes to getting the new faces in sync and ready to protect their star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“It’s pretty strange,” when asked by NBC Sports’ Peter King about having so many new faces on the offensive line this season. “But I think a lot of people overlook our coaching staff and how important those guys are. We probably have some of the best coaches in the whole world. I think if you just look at our offensive line, you’re probably saying ‘those are some big boys,’ those guys can really keep guys away from Pat (Mahomes). He’s going to do his thing, make his plays, buy time, but I think our coaching staff is really going to be the key for those guys really coming together.”
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“No, no I’m not,” Mathieu said when asked if he’s nervous about an entirely grouping along the offensive line. “And I say that because we all have tremendous faith in our coaches. They play a big part in us going to back-to-back Super Bowls. They’re so detailed, so hands-on, and I think as players it makes you feel comfortable when you’re receiving information from people that really know what they’re talking about.”
If you watched the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LV loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you’ll understand why there are so many new faces along their offensive line. Mahomes was running for his life in the 31-9 blowout loss, which is why revamping the unit was the No.1 point of emphasis this offseason.
Rookies Taking Lead During Training Camp
Along with Brown and Thuney, Kansas City is putting its trust in three rookies to be starters on the offensive line in 2021 based on how training camp has played out thus far. Second-round pick Creed Humphrey looks to be the starting center, sixth-round pick Trey Smith at right guard, and 2020 third-round pick Niang at right tackle. Despite it being an unusual maneuver to have that many rookies on the first-team unit, head coach Andy Reid believes he can have success with the new guys.
“I’ve started a number of rookies in there and they’ve done a good job, but sure, you like to have experience,” Reid told reporters during the first week of training camp. “But again, I’ve had success with rookies too, so it’s kind of individually based on how they step up and communicate and how willing the veteran players are to share with them their experiences. Then, fortunately, they have Andy (Heck) who played in the league for 14 years and has been coaching forever as their coach.”
Set Up For Success
Between a strong coaching staff and a plethora of talented defensive lineman who can also coach them up on what they are seeing from the other side of the football, all of the new faces on the offensive line are in a position to succeed. That’s good news for Kansas City, especially Mahomes, who needs to stay on his feet if he wants to continue playing at an elite level for years to come.