Chiefs Offensive Line In Focus
One 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 grade 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.
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.
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