Chiefs Offensive Line In Focus

The Chiefs' offensive line has undergone a massive transformation from what it looked like in 2013. Steve Palazzolo examines the early returns.

| 3 years ago

Chiefs Offensive Line In Focus

In-FocusOne of the big offseason storylines in Kansas City centered on their offensive line as they lost three players with starting experience, all of whom were productive in 2013. Left tackle Branden Albert, right guard Jon Asamoah and swing guard Geoff Schwartz all found new homes, leaving the Chiefs to re-shuffle the line.

Last year’s first round pick Eric Fisher flipped to left tackle with third-year tackle Donald Stephenson expected to step in on the right. That left the right guard spot to fill with sixth-round pick Zach Fulton and veteran Jeff Linkenbach in the mix.

The moves looked risky on paper as it all unfolded back in the spring and now things are starting to get risky on the field as well. As always, preseason performances mean little in the KC OLgrade scheme of things, but early returns on the revamped Chiefs offensive line have not been good.

Fisher has continued to struggle on the left side while Fulton has been overmatched through three games. Only RT Ryan Harris has shown well as both a run and pass blocker, and he may only get a chance to play because of Stephenson’s four-game suspension to start the season.

Saturday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings was yet another poor showing for the Chiefs’ offensive line as quarterback Alex Smith was under fierce pressure throughout the night. He was pressured on 12 of his 30 drop-backs, including five that saw pressure within two seconds of the snap. Many times throughout the night, Smith was already dodging oncoming rushers as he hit the top of his drop, forcing the Chiefs’ offense to look out-of-sync for much of the game.

Vikings Pass Rush vs Chiefs

Vikings Pass Rush vs Chiefs 2

Vikings Pass Rush vs Chiefs 3

Vikings Pass Rush vs Chiefs 4

Even when Smith did get time to throw, it was obvious he was still feeling pressure, whether looking for a quick scramble or holding the ball in a clean pocket almost waiting for a pass rusher to break free. He gets plenty of blame for his poor performance, but if he faces pressure on 40 percent of his drop-backs for the entire season, it’s going to be a long season in Kansas City.


Follow Steve on Twitter.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Uptown Sinclair

    In the past I’ve chocked up Eric Fishers struggles to injury or playing out of position but now I’m questioning if he even knows how to play football

  • Wyzel

    It’s so nice to see the vikings defense do something other than cover 2. I’m worried for charles this year, and smith won’t get paid if the line doesnt protect him either. That defense can’t stay together because you cannot pay them all, chiefs may still be in the hunt this year, but next year could be bad.

  • George McDowell

    Smith is a mediocre QB that needs a running game and excellent blocking to have any chance.
    And this year the Chiefs will NOT be playing a last place schedule like last year. The good news for KC fans is that they will have a top 10 pick to replace Smith with. But you’ll still need an O-Line.

  • Adam

    Lord, people love to hate on the Chiefs here in the comment section on this site. Nobody ever steps in to defend these guys. Its always just “Chiefs are not good enough, they don’t have the talent needed to succeed in any fashion, the weaknesses they have are so bad, their strengths become abysmal, and there’s no hope for them in the near future either because they wont be able to pay anyone to stick around”. With so much pessimism regarding our roster, especially on this site, what does a fan have to be optimistic about?

    • Doug

      Hatred or optimism have nothing to do with the way this site is run and they have little to do with most of the commenters (at least on this site) either. I know every fan wants to be optimistic about their team in August, but you also need to be realistic and set expectations accordingly. The Chiefs do have some great players on their team, such as Dontari Poe, Justin Houston, Eric Berry, Jamal Charles, Tamba Hali and Derick Johnson. But their offensive line is a glaring weakness that does hurt their chances of returning to the playoffs.

  • Chris

    I’ve been harping on this for months. The Chiefs will miss the playoffs because of this. Their OL is terrible, one of the worst in the league. I’ll echo what someone else said below – Smith is an average QB who needs a great running game and OL to help him succeed.

    The running game will take a step back this year, and Smith will be scrambling to avoid pressure like those 4 gifs show all year.

    But yet delusional homers will still say they’ll be okay. Where’s that guy that told me Rokevious Watkins was the answer, when he’s since been cut from the roster?

    Putrid OL= no playoffs. Ask the Raiders.

    Their top 3 defense will keep them in games, but the offense will be even worse and more inconsistent than last year. I said it before and I’ll say it again, 8 wins tops.

    • Paul

      I reserve the right to judge the o line till half way trough the yr. They’re the youngest o line in the NFL. So judging them now would be premature.
      I rough season ya maybe so, but as long as they get better as the yr goes along is all I’m hoping for.

  • Budahmon

    Watching the gifs in this article….two of them show poor pass blocking techniques by the RB Knile Davis, not a problem with the OL. While the other two are specific issues with Zach Fulton. Charles probably makes those blocks and the issue would have been does Alex get rid of the ball in a timely manner. Fulton is a work in progress, we will have to wait and see his progression.