Breaking Down the Chiefs' Interior OL after LDT Opts Out, Osemele Steps In
The Kansas City Chiefs’ offense is quite remarkable in the talent they hold. This is something the entire NFL has had to recognize with their recent dominance. From quarterback to receiver to running back to offensive tackle, the Chiefs are quite well-off.
However, the Chiefs have one clear weakness on offense: the interior offensive line. In 2019, this group was led by Austin Reiter, Stefen Wisniewski, Andrew Wylie and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. In 2020, Wisniewski and Duvernay-Tardif will not be a part of the group after Wisniewski signed with his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers and Duvernay-Tardif opted out of playing to assist the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Their snaps will likely be distributed to Wylie, Martinas Rankin and newcomers Kelechi Osemele and Mike Remmers.
I would expect the starters of the team to currently be Reiter, Rankin and Osemele. Reiter is coming off a season where his run blocking was a rough spot, including a 51.3 Pro Football Focus (PFF) run-blocking grade in the regular season, but he protected Patrick Mahomes and Matt Moore relatively well with just six pressures allowed in the regular season, according to PFF. Rankin had an interesting 2019 with the Chiefs, as he came in via a trade with the Houston Texans involving running back Carlos Hyde and he had some great and some poor performances. According to PFF, Rankin allowed three pressures each against the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers, which would be poor for a tackle, let alone a guard. However, he also allowed zero pressures the rest of the season, including starts against the Texans, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans. If Rankin can be more like the player we saw against those three teams, he will be one of the better guards in the AFC West.
Then we come to Osemele, who was picked up by the Chiefs on Sunday. Osemele is a real pro, an eight-year veteran who has made two Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 2016 as a member of the Oakland Raiders. While Osemele's last two years have been rough, with just an average season in 2018 and a 2019 season restricted by a season-ending injury followed by a public spat with his new team, the New York Jets, Osemele could certainly be this season's Wisniewski and become the clear best interior offensive lineman on the team.
Assuming that those are the starters, we are left with Wylie, Remmers, second-year interior lineman Nick Allegretti and potentially rookie third-round pick Lucas Niang as the backups. Remmers is an eight-year veteran who joined the Chiefs on March 23 and he has had quite a career, being on seven teams, three of whom he started for (2014-16 Carolina Panthers, 2017-18 Minnesota Vikings, 2019 New York Giants) and starting in Super Bowl 50 for the Panthers. Unfortunately for Remmers, Von Miller made that day the worst of his career, as Remmers allowed 10 pressures with three of them being sacks.
Next is Wylie, who has played more than 600 snaps for the Chiefs in the last two seasons, but lost the left guard spot late last season to Wisniewski and was unable to take the right guard spot away from Duvernay-Tardif, keeping him on the sidelines for the Chiefs' run to a Lombardi Trophy. Then we have Allegretti, who will likely be the backup center to Reiter after a "redshirt" rookie season, for lack of a better term. Allegretti was an undrafted free agent signing for the Chiefs following the 2019 NFL Draft after a highly productive senior year at Illinois.
Finally, we look at the rookie. Niang was drafted 96th overall after a dominant tenure as TCU's right tackle. Niang allowed zero sacks in his three years as the full-time starter for the Horned Frogs. Niang has no real interior offensive line experience, but there are rumors about him moving inside and he has openly said that he is willing to move inside if the Chiefs want him to. I would prefer if Niang stayed at tackle to focus on being a future replacement for Eric Fisher or Mitchell Schwartz, but if the Chiefs decide to play him at guard for now, I won't complain.
The Chiefs' interior offensive line is going to be an interesting group, no matter what. It's unlikely to be a big difference-maker, whether positive or negative, but it's the most obvious thing on the Chiefs' offense that looks, essentially, normal. Everything else there gives defensive coordinators across the league night terrors. Can the group improve in 2020 to give defensive coordinators even more to worry about and less to exploit? With the addition of Osemele, the odds of that certainly increased, but only if he returns to his levels of production as a Raider. If that happens, the Chiefs may well average 35 points per game.