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Kansas City Chiefs interior offensive line: The good, bad and ugly

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After writing about Eric Fisher following the game (and, naturally, cursing the man to suffer an ankle sprain, much like I doomed Jeff Allen a week ago by writing about him), I had quite a few people ask about Mitch Morse and Zach Fulton.

Now on one hand, I want to be a man of the people and write about what you want to read about. On the other hand, I'm terrified of what the reaction will be if anyone I write about this week gets so much as a hangnail in practice.

But deep in my soul I don't believe in curses. At least, that's what I kept telling myself as I reviewed the film on the interior offensive line. And just to prove to myself (and to you) that I really DON'T believe in my ability to curse humans I'll never meet playing a sport hundreds of miles away from me, I decided to review Ben Grubbs as well.

Since we're going over three different players, each individual analysis will be a little shorter than it was with Fisher's review. After all, I should at least TALK to my wife and kids every once in a while.

For those of you who haven't read the Fisher piece, it's here. And a quick synopsis of how I grade. I track "wins" and "losses" as both a pass blocker and a run blocker. We keep things as basic as possible; a win as a pass blocker is keeping your guy away from the quarterback. A win as a run blocker is clearing a lane or sealing off your defender. Technique doesn't matter (that's addressed in the actual review part); what I care about is if you were positive or negative on the play.

I've also added a new "stat" (are these stats? I dunno. Let's call them stats. Makes them sound official) to use; "neutral" plays. This is where an OL didn't have anyone to block or even really help block, or when a play goes away from them so quickly they never end up engaging anyone. It will also include plays where I can't really tell where the blocking assignment is (fortunately, with vanilla preseason stuff that's not too complicated).

Here's how we'll do this; I'll present the charts one after another, then talk about each player in the order their chart is listed.

Mitch Morse

Pass Block Wins Pass Block Losses Run Block Wins Run Block Losses Neutral
5 1 2 1 7

Zach Fulton

Pass Block Wins Pass Block Losses Run Block Wins Run Block Losses Neutral
4 3 3 2 5

Ben Grubbs

Pass Block Wins Pass Block Losses Run Block Wins Run Block Losses Neutral
11 0 3 1 2

To quote a former Arrowhead Pride contributor, this was a case of the good (Grubbs), the bad (Fulton), and the eh (Morse).

Let's talk about Morse first. Of the three, I'd say he shows the most power when he's got his feet under him. On several pass blocking plays he was able to re-anchor against a bull rush and halt the defender's progress forward. He needs to work on his footwork, as it gets him in trouble at times. It's as though he's relying too much on his upper body strength. However, once he gets that cleaned up he'll have some real power to his game.

Morse is also a better athlete in space than I expected (something all the Chiefs linemen share at this point is the ability to move at the second level). I don't know WHY I expected him to be a non-athlete, but I assume it has something to do with him looking like he's in his thirties. I'm excited about what he can do on zone stretch plays and screens.

Morse also is active and consistently looks to help out when he's left without a defender to block. One problem with the sample size I have of him is he was in that situation much more than the other linemen. That's one reason he racked up so many neutral plays; it seemed he was asked to do less than anyone else on the line.

Overall Morse didn't wow me, but he also didn't collapse in his first NFL action against a tough and deep defensive line. I'm perfectly comfortable seeing what he can do moving forward.

Fulton is another story. As you can see by the numbers, he had more losses than Morse did, particularly in pass protection. And while a few extra losses might not seem like a big deal, when you take into account the small sample size it's actually a sizable difference.

Fulton's primary issue seems to be strength. I saw way too many snaps like this one (the very first snap of the game, the deep ball attempt to Maclin).

I saw Fulton get pushed back like that at least four times on Saturday, and likely more (I didn't keep count so I'm lowballing the exact number to be fair to Fulton). Now, it seems to be in part a footwork issue, as Fulton isn't keeping a solid base and is too upright. But in part he just appears to be getting manhandled.

Many of Fulton's "wins" in pass protection came when he had help from Morse. When he was alone on an island as a pass blocker it was often trouble. Additionally, his inability to move defenders hurt the run game. One of Knile Davis's runs was stuffed for a loss when Fulton got moved backward, with the defender simply shoving Fulton off and taking Knile down in the backfield.

Again, this is a small sample size. But I'm concerned with Fulton moving forward. Strength isn't something that's going to all of a sudden change at the 11th hour, and unless Fulton can really clean up his footwork and hand fighting he's going to get abused by stronger defensive tackles.

Then there's Ben Grubbs. The worst thing I could say about Grubbs is that he looks to have average strength in his punch and doesn't necessarily overwhelm defensive linemen.

Beyond that, I have nothing but praise for Grubbs. His one "loss" on the night occurred when he slipped on a reach block, and to be fair he still slowed the defender down. Besides that play Grubbs was exceptional. His pass protection was consistently solid. Check this out.

That's exactly what you want. One on one vs a defensive lineman and he never lets him get anywhere. He was so effective I watched the play about a dozen times to make sure the DL wasn't just playing "contain." I'm fairly certain he wasn't. He just got frozen by Grubbs.

(Quick side note, that play is the play I discussed in Fisher's review. Love the recovery by Fisher there.)

As mentioned, Grubbs doesn't have elite power. He's not a slouch, but he doesn't seem to really jolt defenders. However, his hand placement is impeccable and his footwork is consistently outstanding. He seems to know every trick in the book, able to change tactics to redirect defenders who look like they're gaining the upper hand when rushing the passer.

I didn't get to see much of Grubbs in the run game, but what I saw was positive. He's not overpowering, but he'll deliver a shot and knows how to keep defenders away from where the play is running.

Basically, if the sample from Friday is any indication, Grubbs is exactly what we'd hoped he would be; a very good left guard. If Fisher recovers decently from his ankle sprain (fortunately it seems like a minor one) and continues to play at the level he was playing at prior to the injury, he and Grubbs are a very solid tandem on the left side.

Really, the only player I'm currently deeply concerned about on the line is Fulton. As we all saw last year, defenses will key in on a weak offensive lineman and exploit him all day. After watching his tape I'm not one bit surprised someone else is getting a shot at right guard.

That someone else? Dr. Canada himself, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. And yes, I'll be working on his review immediately upon completion of this column. You're all lucky I can't leave questions unanswered.

In the meantime, I feel a little better about Morse than I did leading into Saturday's game, and I feel fantastic about Grubbs and Fisher. We'll see how the right side shapes up. Also, everyone needs to throw salt over their shoulder after reading this so we're not down three more offensive linemen because of me. You can't be too careful.

It's Game Time.

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