Since the second drive of Week 6, the Kansas City Chiefs have been without starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. In his absence with a back injury, the team has remained quiet about what is going on with his back and when (or if) he will return. Now, Schwartz's replacement on the right side and teammate on the left side of the line are both missing practice time with back issues of their own.
Talk of Schwartz's return from injured reserve has only heightened since his replacement, Mike Remmers, left last week's game against the Miami Dolphins with his own back injury.
Adding to the uneasiness on the Chiefs offensive line, on Wednesday, head coach Andy Reid confirmed that Remmers and starting left tackle Eric Fisher did not practice, both with a "tight back."
On Thursday, Herbie Teope of The Kansas City Star tweeted that Fisher and Remmers were not on the practice field during the portion of practice open to the media. The Chiefs later confirmed that Fisher and Remmers were out again on Thursday.
At this point, Schwartz probably shouldn't be expected back until we hear otherwise. For Fisher and Remmers, however, the Chiefs now have two enormous question marks bookending their offensive line.
Not even considering the long-term for the time being, what would the Chiefs do if Fisher and Remmers couldn't play this weekend against the Saints?
If Fisher can't go on Sunday, filling his role becomes interesting if Remmers misses time as well. With the Chiefs' top three tackles out, Martinas Rankin could be a candidate to step in. Rankin hasn't played since the Chiefs' 2019 Week 10 game against the Tennessee Titans where he injured his knee.
Rankin's injury kept him on the Physically Unable to Perform list until Nov. 10. Since his activation, Rankin has been inactive on gameday.
Another possibility to play tackle is current right guard Andrew Wylie. Wylie took 33 snaps at tackle on offense in his rookie season before he moved to guard. In a tight spot like the Chiefs could be in, Wylie could move to either position with undrafted rookie Yasir Durant opposite of him.
In his limited sample size this season, Durant has not shown to be especially stalwart in pass protection. Wylie could likely take over the left tackle role in this scenario and Durant would resume taking snaps at right tackle.
The second issue would be filling the vacancy at right guard. Luckily enough for the Chiefs, they recently re-signed Stefen Wisniewski, who was one of Kansas City's starting guards on their run to the Super Bowl after Wylie was injured.
Wisniewski is currently on the practice squad and but has already been a gameday call-up the maximum of two times this year. If the Chiefs wanted Wisniewski for this week's game, they would need to add him to the active roster. Adding him shouldn't be an issue as he should be the team's everyday right guard.
Bryan Witzmann is another guard the Chiefs could call up from the practice squad, but he too would need to be added to the active roster as he's already been a gameday designation twice. Witzmann is listed as a guard with the Chiefs, though he played left tackle in college at South Dakota State University, which could provide some useful flexibility in a pinch, which the Chiefs appear to be in already.
If the team was to choose someone to call up, Wisniewski would make more sense for the long-term.
Kansas City has two open spots on their active 53-man roster with one practice squad vacancy after practice squad guard Danny Isidora was claimed by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Marcus Kemp was waived before signing with the Miami Dolphins practice squad.
With Byron Pringle's participation in practice on Wednesday, he could return off the injured reserve soon, leaving only one vacancy on the roster.
An active roster call-up would require either Wisniewski or Witzmann to stay up for at least three weeks. If the team wanted to then add them back to the practice squad, the player would have to clear waivers before they could do so.
If the Chiefs wanted to avoid calling up Wisniewski or Witzmann, Daniel Kilgore could easily play guard, or he could start at center and center Austin Reiter could move to guard.
Either way, this isn't the best week for Kansas City to have these offensive line problems as the Saints defensive line is one of the best in the league. The New Orleans defensive front has a top-10 defensive tackle according to pass rush win rate, and David Onyemata could end up facing backup interior offensive linemen.
Onyemata's pressure could cause Mahomes to drift further back in the pocket, putting more stress on the backup tackles facing Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. It could be a recipe for disaster for the Chiefs offensive front.
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