The Kansas City Chiefs allocated a great deal of time and tangible resources this past offseason towards completely rebuilding their offensive line. That unit will face its first major test on Sunday in a season-opener against the Cleveland Browns.
The offseason additions of Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith have led to four outside faces coming in and starting along the offensive line from left to right. Lucas Niang, a 2020 NFL Draft pick, is returning from an opt-out year and will be the fifth "new" face in the first-team unit. In an overcorrection-turned-master-plan, general manager Brett Veach has turned starting-caliber players into reserves while replacing them with young, talented linemen.
In the limited preseason action it did see together, the revamped Chiefs offensive line looked good for the most part — especially considering its struggles in the run game last year. Only so much stock can be put into such a small sample size, though, and the group has yet to play any meaningful regular season snaps. Conner Christopherson of Arrowhead Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to discuss the most likely scenario for the line as the Browns game looms on the horizon.
While defensive end Jadaveon Clowney may not be quite the player that many hype him up to be, he's a productive force along a defensive line nonetheless. He also has a chip on his shoulder and will be looking to wreak havoc with a new team in 2021. Health has always been a question mark with him but as he heads into the season at full capacity, his combination of athleticism and strength will give either Brown or Niang all they can handle.
Speaking of strength and athletic ability, Myles Garrett is one of the best athletes in the entire NFL. The 272-pound defensive end is coming off a season in which he recorded 12 sacks, and his best football should still be ahead of him. Garrett can win with brute force and also a bit of finesse, making him an extremely difficult matchup to face. He, too, will challenge the Chiefs' tackles.
The main worry about both Brown and Niang throughout training camp and the preseason has been whether they can hold up against elite-level pass-rushers. Brown is well-documented as a poor athlete for the left tackle position and relies on his fundamentally sound game to help him win one-on-ones. Niang is a better athlete but still doesn't have great foot speed when sliding. Their Week 1 assignments will push them to the limit when it comes to reading and reacting quickly.
Along the interior, Thuney is a veteran presence and by all accounts, neither Humphrey nor Smith has played like a rookie in quite some time. They should be relatively strong right out of the gate. Sure, it's possible that one of the first-year players experiences some in-game growing pains, but they also won't be primarily facing Clowney nor Garrett. That helps.
The Chiefs offensive line you see in Week 1 won't be the same exact one you see during a potential deep playoff run. While the personnel will ideally consist of the same starting five, the group will have grown together and jelled over the course of a long NFL season. This is a slow-cooking process that will pay off in the long run but for now, take the line's performance against the Browns with a grain of salt — regardless of how good or bad it plays.