Much has been made of the Kansas City Chiefs' new-look offensive line, and for good reason. That continued on Friday night after a preseason-closing win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Heading into the offseason, general manager Brett Veach and his front office sought out to revamp a unit that was shallow and decimated with injuries by the time Super Bowl LV rolled around. Not only were a few changes made, but the 2021 starting five is completely different than the one that took the field a year ago.
The new-and-improved group was undoubtedly going to take some time before it grew together as one, but the early results have been promsing. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has had noticeably longer in the pocket, and the running game was productive early and often in games. When asked about his rookie right tackle, Lucas Niang, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid spoke to the depth of his line and the amount of growth Niang has showed thus far.
"We've got a handful of guys, plus some," Reid said. "Maybe two handfuls that we feel are pretty good players. He's (Niang) gotten better each week, and you've got to give him credit for that. I'll go back and look at this, as Andy Heck (offensive line coach) will, and just see how he did. He's had a good camp and he's had good downs when he's played."
Niang, who opted out of the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been seeing action with the starters due to Mike Remmers' back injury. Rather than struggle and show that he isn't quite ready, Niang has looked like he belongs with the ones. The starting right tackle job may be his heading into the regular season, especially if Remmers isn't healthy enough to be relied upon again.
Reid was also asked about why his leash with the first team on Friday was shorter than expected. In response, he admitted that he'd seen enough out of his best players in the time they spent on the field.
"I knew going in that we had enough reps, what I thought were enough reps," Reid said. "So, strictly, the comfort I felt that the offense had working together and the defense had working together. Then I can pull the trigger when I need to pull it and get them out of there. I thought what we did — we had long drives and some good work — we already had enough snaps."
Had this been a preseason in which the Chiefs only added one new starter along the line, perhaps the first-team offense wouldn't have seen much time together. With a brand new unit, though, developing continuity and trust takes time. That also applies to Mahomes, who has bailed on many clean pockets in the past. The more snaps this group spent together in exhibition play, the better.
As the regular season approaches, one thing is for certain: The Chiefs' offensive line is in a good spot. Not only is it a talented unit in regards to the starting five, but it's deeper than it was last year. Reid mentioned the "two handfuls" of good players, and that's a valid statement. Having a surplus of talent is a good problem to have and after a successful preseason, this may be just the tip of the iceberg.