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Grading the Kansas City Chiefs new offensive line: Pleasantly surprised

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

So apparently there was some kind of problem with the Kansas Cit Chiefs offensive line?

After weeks of Chiefs fans tearing at their beards and pouring ashes on their heads (you know, metaphorically) over the state of the offensive line, Andy Reid went nuclear and decided to make wholesale changes up front.

Donald Stephenson gets relegated to the bench, with Eric Fisher taking his spot (back) at LT.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is back at RG, with Zach Fulton sitting. I once again curse my luck at having to try and remember exactly how to say and spell LDT's name when I'm not just calling him LDT. Really, man? With the hyphen and stuff?

Jeff Allen rises from the ashes of the "even though he's clearly one of the five best offensive linemen on the team we're going to sit him because aliens" doghouse to get the nod at RT.

The offensive line overhaul had the exact results Andy Reid was hoping for, at least for a week.

Look, I understand that fans have wanted moves like this for a few weeks, so it's easy to scream "why did it take so long" into the void. However, I'm going to focus on the positive; Reid finally stopped with half measures and sent a clear message to the entire team: do your job or sit down.

Anyone watching the game could see that the Chiefs had better offensive line play against the Steelers than in recent weeks. But, on an individual level, how did the "new" (I put in the quotation marks because, technically, every one of those guys has started at the position they were now playing before) guys do?

Well, that's what I'm here for.

I went back and charted 61 snaps, tracking pass block and run block "wins" and "losses," as well as plays I deemed "neutral." It's a pretty basic system. A win is beating the guy in front of you quite clearly. A loss is ... you know, getting beat. Neutral plays are those where the play goes away from the offensive lineman too quickly for them to be an impact or when they teetered the line between a win and a loss.

Is this all THAT scientific? No. Grading players like this is going to vary from person to person. However, we can get at least a decent idea of how players did on their own. We'll also take a look at "loss percentage" (percentage of snaps a player lost. I want guys below 10 percent. Any more and I worry) and "win percentage" (percentage of snaps a player won. Obviously, we want this number as high as possible).

Let's start with our new old right tackle, Jeff Allen.

Jeff Allen

Pass Block Wins Pass Block Losses Run Block Wins Run Block Losses Neutral Loss Percentage Win Percentage
21 3 12 3 22 9.84% 54.09%

Jeff Allen returned to RT and picked up exactly where he left off the last time he was at RT; competent in a (relatively) ugly way.

Look, Allen doesn't look pretty out there. He isn't built like a typical right tackle. He's built like a guard. His footwork always seems a tad slow. But he gets the job done out there. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes, he plays with a mean streak, and he's WAY too strong for edge rushers.

Allen wins on the edge by doing just enough to stay in front of edge rushers, then overpowering them when he gets his hands on them. Bull rushes from guys on the edge don't seem to phase him at all. I assume that playing on the interior for years would make a guy find a bull rush from a 280-pounder somewhat entertaining.

Allen wasn't perfect, but he was quite good the vast majority of the day. His losses, by and large, weren't crippling losses (not all losses are created equal, if you'll recall previous articles on LDT's particularly brutal way of losing) and largely involved getting a step out of position and losing to speed.

Allen's run blocking was also solid, which mattered a great deal down the stretch. Both on West's short touchdown run and the game-sealing third down conversion Allen made great power blocks paving the way.

Overall, Allen did a solid job. There's absolutely no reason Reid should pull him from RT from here on out. He's solid in pass pro and brings a punch to run blocking.

Now, what about the new old RG?

LDT

Pass Block Wins Pass Block Losses Run Block Wins Run Block Losses Neutral Loss Percentage Win Percentage
19 3 15 3 21 9.84% 55.74%

LDT was a pleasant surprise. The biggest issue with LDT in past games was that when he lost, he lost HORRIFICALLY. Like, getting immediately beat (usually because he got caught lunging at or leaning on a defender) and destroying a play before it could get started.

Believe it or not, I didn't catch a single play where LDT got caught leaning. He's clearly worked on his punch technique after getting benched earlier in the season.

Now, let's clarify something; even though LDT's numbers are slightly better than Allen's, in my opinion Allen's tape was better. LDT's wins weren't quite as convincing, and his losses were a little worse. Overall, though, there wasn't that much difference in their competency level. LDT put together a solid game, particularly as a run blocker (he also paved the way on those two crucial plays for the Chiefs I mentioned above).

LDT, as always, moved really well and space and demonstrated solid strength when using proper technique. He also wasn't absolutely crushed by stunts and delayed blitzes the way we'd seen in previous games.

LDT playing at a solid level eliminated the biggest weak spot on the line to this point (RG, though LT was arguably as much of a problem recently) and led to pockets like this for Smith.

chiefs

It's worth noting the Steelers used BOTH a stunt (on the left side) and a delayed blitz (on the right side. Grubbs and  Fisher handled the stunt quite well, and LDT / Allen picked up the delayed blitz beautifully.

We always talk about the offensive line being a sum of the parts. Well, when there's no glaring weakness dragging down the entire unit, an offense looks markedly better (though far from perfect, with work still needing to be done on the play calling and Smith. But that's for another day).

Of course, any review of the offensive line would be incomplete without talking about the new old LT, the widely maligned Eric Fisher.

Eric Fisher

Pass Block Wins Pass Block Losses Run Block Wins Run Block Losses Neutral Loss Percentage Win Percentage
23 3 18 2 15 8.19% 67.21%

Fisher has, over the last several weeks, quietly been the best offensive lineman on the field for the Chiefs. It's gone largely unnoticed as the team has burst into flames around him (and generally, being at RT tends to get you ignored, especially if you're a high draft pick who was "demoted"), but it's the truth. I was afraid that a switch back to LT might result in Fisher's play going downhill.

Thankfully, that was not the case. Though his old friend James Harrison gave him problems a few times (Harrison is really much better than he has any right to be at this point), Fisher was, IMO, the best lineman on the field with the spotlight on him last weekend. He held his own in pass protection and brought some MUCH needed run blocking to the left side of the line.

Before I continue, let's just stop and admire.

Fisher does that really, really well. He's always been a well-above-average athlete at the position, and now he's added enough strength to use that athleticism as a run blocker. He did a very good job sealing off defenders all day, and even had a few pancakes along the way. He played with fire (picking up the rare "I'm glad he did it anyway" penalty after getting on a defender who wouldn't let go of West's leg after the gif'd play above) and was solid with his assignments.

As I said above, LT has been one of the "problem" spots for the team as of late. Fisher did a very good job taking that weakness and turning it into a strength. Even his "losses" aren't as bad as the numbers indicate, as several of them were borderline neutral plays (I tend to grade harshly to avoid bias).

Basically, the offensive line overhaul had the exact results Reid was hoping for, at least for a week. LDT and Fisher were both massive upgrades at the position from what we'd seen the last few weeks (no disrespect to either Fulton or Stephenson, but both had been really struggling), and Allen was solid enough at the RT spot that Fisher moving to the left side didn't cause problems on the right.

It appears this is the group Reid will roll with from here on out, and he's absolutely right to do so. Here's to more snaps like this in the coming weeks.