The Kansas City Chiefs offensive line was one of the biggest weaknesses on the team last season. Only the Jaguars (151 starts), Chargers (160) and Panthers (193) had less experience on their line than the Chiefs.
Here's a look at the Chiefs 2013 offensive line vs. the 2014 line:
10 Yard Run Plays
2013: Left- 24, Center- 16, Right- 19 (ATT: 442)
2014: Left-13, Center- 15, Right- 17 (ATT: 420)
First Down Runs
2013: Left-43, Center-35, Right-32
2014: Left-30, Center-33, Right-29
Rushes for Negative Yards
2013: Left- 9, Center- 9, Right- 10
2014: Left- 14, Center- 12, Right- 10
2013: ATT: 546, Sacks: 41, Hits: 75
2014: ATT: 493, Sacks: 49, Hits: 78
The coaching staff did a good job this season of getting the ball out quick while the line jelled together and moved the ball despite deficiencies. The numbers above show how the coaching staff was able to get similar production in both the run and pass despite less experience on the line.
Let's review what we saw from the Chiefs line last season.
1. Eric Fisher
The first overall pick in the 2013 draft has been a lightning rod for criticism. Fisher hasn't had an ideal tenure in Kansas City to this point. In year one he struggled with his bad habits in technique and tried to get by with athleticism until his strength was up to an NFL par. Fisher alumnus spent his second offseason recovering from shoulder and hernia surgery. which limited the amount of strength training he could perform That stunted his growth. Fisher spent a majority of the 2014 training camp getting the necessary reps to get comfortable with his technique. As the season progressed so did Fisher's technique. He started to get away from the lunging, grabbing and dropping his head that were big problems in 2013. He looked better in his muscle memory working on the left side. Fisher improved on his technique and already had the necessary athletic ability to play in the NFL. The next step is building his strength this offseason. Fisher needs to show a dominate attitude and a good jolt in his punch to continue the process of becoming a very good left tackle. Fisher has gotten by with his athletic ability and technique. His strength is the final step in completing the process. 2015 will be a crucial season for Fisher to take his game to the next level.
2. Mike McGlynn
The chances of seeing McGlynn in a Chiefs uniform this season seem unlikely. The fifth year veteran struggled with taking on bull rushes. He allowed defenders to get underneath his pads and drive him back into the quarterbacks lap. He struggled to make blocks on the perimeter or create space at the line of scrimmage. McGlynn had trouble identifying and correctly picking up stunts and free blitzers coming on delays.
3. Rodney Hudson
Hudson played well in a contract season. The former second round pick started to look like the player the Chiefs drafted four years ago. In his college tape Hudson was an athletic lineman with good pulls, solid reaches and an ability to get to the second level. A broken leg in the third game of his sophomore season took almost two years to reclaim some of the ability he showcased on tape. Hudson has been the rare steady presence on the Chiefs revolving offensive line. Hudson has performed reaches, combo blocks and chip blocks with six guards beside him in two seasons. The instability disrupts timing on blocks and limits blocking harmony. Hudson struggles at driving defenders off the ball in one on one blocks but will provide consistent stalemates and take proper angles on blocks.
4. Zach Fulton
The sixth round pick showed promise in training camp. Fulton had one of the better punches on the team headed into the season. As the season wore on the punch didn't look the same and defenders started to get by him. The rookie had trouble identifying stunts and blitzes at times and will need to improve in those positions. Fulton needs to work on increasing his strength and flexibility to combat the defenders he faces on a weekly basis. He also needs to work on his foot quickness to help assist in his recovery for some blocks.
5. Ryan Harris
The seven-year veteran struggled at right tackle with speed rushers. Harris wasn't able to beat defenders to the corner at times and lost those battles. Harris was serviceable on this reach blocks but didn't dominate the line of scrimmage. One issue this season is when Harris allowed Von Miller to cheap shot his quarterback and did nothing about it. Successful offensive linemen have mean streaks in them and stand up for their quarterback.
6. Jeff Linkenbach
Linkenbach had struggles with his technique during training camp. Like McGlynn, he allowed defenders to get underneath his shoulder pads and drive him back with bull rushes. He didn't have struggles with the stunts in the same capacity as McGlynn but he also didn't have as many attempts against him. Linkenbach lacks the strength to be a powerful guard in the NFL. He likely won't be back in Kansas City this season.
7. Donald Stephenson
The former third round pick had high expectations headed into the 2014. Stephenson had all the qualities that make a right tackle successful: mean streak, desire to dominate, good punch and solid pass blocking skills. The third-year veteran saw his playing time disappear after his four-game suspension to start the season and never reclaimed his starting spot. Despite the struggles on the offensive line, the staff refused to make adjustments. The future looks hazy for Stephenson in Kansas City.
8. Eric Kush
Kush, the Chiefs backup center, showed tremendous quickness coming out of college. His tape showed a center who had a quick first step for reach blocks and the speed to reach the second level quickly. The former sixth round pick improved in training camp this season. He had a good re-anchor and didn't get pushed back to the extent he did the prior season. This upcoming season will be a big year in showing where his development is at.
9. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
Duvernay-Tardif had good size combined with good athletic ability. The adjustment from Canadian football to the NFL will take time. He will need to continue to work on his technique and strength to compete in the NFL. The key will be getting his hands into the defender quicker and providing a jolt that allows him to control his assignment.
10. Jeff Allen
Allen dedicated himself this off-season to becoming the best offensive lineman he was capable of being. He spent his offseason at the LeCharles Bentley O-Line Performance in Scottsdale, AZ. Geoff Schwartz and Donald Stephenson also trained therel. Allen's season was derailed before it even started because of an elbow injury. During that time though, Allen showed promise on the right side of the offensive line. I would be interested to see what his comfort level is at right guard. Allen is a versatile lineman who can play multiple positions and has steadily improved each season in strength and technique. The former second round pick will be entering his contract season, so this will be a crucial season for him.
The offensive line will need some additions at the guard and tackle. The line lacked attitude and ability to dominate the line of scrimmage this season. They need to improve in their recognition of blitzes and stunts. The line must get better at passing off defenders without turning their shoulders and provide free rush lanes for defenders. The team must get better at their strength and punches in pass protection. I anticipate three to four additions to the offensive line through free agency and the draft. This group will determine how quickly the offense can compete against the upper echelon of the NFL. This is the most important off-season this group will face.