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What the stats say about the Chiefs offensive line competition

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The Chiefs appear headed for a position battle at right guard between new Chief Paul Fanaika and Zach Fulton.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After the Kansas City Chiefs signed free agent guard Paul Fanaika last week there were some pegging Fanaika as a "plug-n-play" starter at the right guard spot. But experience doesn't necessarily make Fanaika a starter after Zach Fulton started 16 games in his rookie season.

Arrowhead Pride's Matt Verderame did his film study on Fanaika and Zach Fulton to find the differences in their games and athleticism and his findings answered part of the question for me. You should definitely read that piece.

Since Matt did the film study on this, I wanted to offer up two stats on this intriguing competition as well.

In my Dee Ford story earlier this week, ‘Pressure Production' was measured by whether or not Ford was able to produce a measurable effect on the QB (sack, hit, hurry). Analyzing Fanaika and Fulton, we'll look at how well they do stopping the Dee Fords of the league.

Protecting the quarterback means a clean throwing pocket for Alex Smith. Offensive line coaches spend sleepless nights on office couches devising schemes to achieve this goal. That means the individual blockers kept the defenders from having a recorded effect on the quarterback (sack, hit, hurry). Its called ‘Clean Block Production'.

Pass blocking plays produce either a positive (clean block) or a negative (sack, hit or hurry). Sacks, hits and hurries are graded out as the same negative result: a pressure allowed. The final result is the percentage of pass blocking snaps the particular lineman kept the quarterback unaffected.

We'll look at the 2014 season as a whole for each of these players. The data is provided by ProFootballFocus.com and includes the total snaps the player was in pass protection as well as the pressures allowed.

The Clean Block Percentage shows that while playing nearly 50 additional pass-block snaps, Fulton allowed eight fewer pressures than Fanaika. That's encouraging for a rookie when compared to a four-year veteran (at the start of the 2014 season), but it may not be a complete picture of the each player's pass blocking abilities.

To find a closer comparison, let's narrow the sample and look at common opponents for Fanaika's Cardinals and Fulton's Chiefs last season. I used two games vs. teams from each division, looking at pass blocking performances against these four teams: Seattle, Denver, St. Louis and San Diego.

The performances versus common opponents show two telling results. Again, Fulton allowed fewer total pressures while playing more pass block snaps. Fulton was able to maintain his performance level when facing four of the more difficult opponents of 2014. Fanaika saw his performance drop off against those same four teams.

These results seem to point to a competition or bolstering the depth of the line, rather than Fanaika automatically replacing Fulton. Jeremy Maclin and possibly a newly-drafted wide receiver could bring more of a focus in the passing game, which highlights each player's pass blocking abilities. Without Jeff Allen or a high-round draft choice at right guard, I would say this is heading for a training camp position battle. Based on my research I would predict Fulton to eventually win that competition based on his pass protection.