Two players from last year’s Kansas City Chiefs offensive line — Eric Fisher, Stefan Wisniewski, Austin Reiter, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Mitchell Schwartz — did not return for 2020. Wisniewski left in free agency and Duvernay-Tardif opted out to help fight COVID on the front lines.
That’s pretty much the norm for the group. The Chiefs’ offensive line has long been a patchwork that gets by from year to year — especially on the interior.
Their departures left the line thin — not only with starters, but also with depth. So the Chiefs turned to free agency, signing veteran Mike Remmers to a one-year deal to play as a swing offensive tackle and reserve interior lineman — similar to the role Cameron Erving played last season. Early in the season, Remmers saw action filling in for Andrew Wylie and Kelechi Osemele — another player signed during the offseason — but his biggest test lay ahead.
Schwartz — the starting right tackle — missed three games (and most of a fourth) with a back injury before the Chiefs placed him on injured reserve last Saturday. Having already played at right guard and left guard, Remmers came in for Schwartz against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6. Schwartz will miss at least two more games before he will be eligible to return, so Remmers will continue to play on the outside at least until then.
Now with starter reps in seven games this season, Remmers is earning every cent of his $1.9 million contract. Let’s dig into his film and see how he’s been doing.
Mike Remmers | OL
With such small sample sizes, it’s hard to avoid overreacting — but watching the Chiefs run the football with Remmers at right tackle, it’s easy to think they may be seeing better run blocking than they did earlier in this year. Schwartz has been a phenomenal player for so long that it’s hard to even consider that his play could have declined — but it’s possible. One area where Remmers seems to have a relatively clear advantage over Schwartz is in his ability as a drive blocker, utilizing power to help create movement at the line of scrimmage.
Mike Remmers is set to be the starting RT in KC for at least two more games, if not the rest of the season.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 24, 2020
Considering expectations, he's done a pretty good job so far for KC.
Good power step, gets low into the double on Duo, drives and pins, & allows the LG to climb to MIKE pic.twitter.com/tIpitWbelg
Against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, the Chiefs changed up the scheme a little bit, putting more on the plates of their running backs. (That’s probably a whole other topic, but let’s move on). This allowed the offensive line to focus more on their blocks (and their blocking angles) at the first level — which, in turn, seemed to let them play faster.
Here, Remmers — working with Wylie on the play side double team — is able to fire off the line of scrimmage low and powerfully, helping to displace the defensive tackle. Then he continues to drive his feet, working his inside hand into the defender’s chest so he can pin his opponent if Wylie has to block the middle linebacker in the A-gap. It’s a quality blend of initial power, strength through his leg drive and good hand technique to turn the defender and drive him completely out of the play.
This kind of Duo run is designed to maximize double teams — and the displacement of defensive linemen — so the running back can make the MIKE linebacker miss in the right gap.
No, it's not a replay.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 24, 2020
Love that Chiefs ran more man/gap concepts vs LV and let the RBs be more responsible for beating the MIKE rather than asking the OL to climb to them. Allowed the OL to focus on the double teams and get movement.
Like the pancake across the formation pic.twitter.com/8PJkhluQHk
Here’s another Duo run where Wylie and Remmers are working together on the double team. We see good explosion, scoop and leg drive to help push the defensive tackle across the formation — and then when he tries to split the two blockers, Remmers is in good position to keep driving him down the line, eventually finishing him off with a pancake.
On the first play, Remmers did a good job taking the defensive tackle from Wylie so he can pick up the linebacker coming down into the A-gap. This time, the MIKE stays patient. Wylie doesn’t have to leave the double team; he’s free to join Remmers in driving the defensive tackle all the way into the linebacker’s lap — and to the ground.
Schwartz has shown he can be an excellent blocker, but he’s never been much of a body mover. Even when working on combo or double-team blocks like these, it’s always been more about gaining position through technique and altering the angle — rather than creating movement. But with Remmers at right tackle — along with Allegretti and Wylie on the inside — the line has a little more of a power element in their game.
As a run blocker, Schwartz’s ability to block in space has given him an edge — but earlier this year, that ability appeared to have been limited. Remmers has shown himself to be adequate in that area.
Remmers may not be the first guy you think of as getting out into space but he's been more than functional for KC in that regard.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 24, 2020
Quick pull on the pitch with a tight arc. Gets his eyes on the first player to flow and maintains a tight angle mid-pointing nearest two defenders pic.twitter.com/MH1DdMw9T4
On this quick pitch, Remmers makes quick a pull to the outside, looking to take the first player flowing to the run — or a cornerback forced into a contain role. He shows loose hips on the pull — his experience at guard clearly showing — but what really stands out is how tightly he makes his arc. His tight loop (right off Travis Kelce’s hip) allows him to work upfield quickly — but also prevents a defender from shooting behind him and getting to the running back. His path aligns with both the flowing linebacker and the cornerback holding contain, so he doesn’t have to make drastic, last-second adjustments.
At the end of the play, you can see a little bit of the Remmers’ limitations in space. He’s unable to find another gear to accelerate into the contact; he has to gather-step beforehand. This allows the linebacker to cross him and turn the running back inside. Remmers is functional in space — and adequate at quickly climbing to the second level — but he does show some limitations.
This is the area where offensive tackles make their money — one in which Schwartz has always excelled. This is also the area where past film at tackle showed Remmers struggling the most — and where his ultimate competence will be judged.
Balanced. Patient hands. Kick depth. Maintain base.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 24, 2020
LV doesn't have the speed to threaten the arc quickly - which is where Remmers struggles the most - but he simply played sound football all game long. Walking rushers up the arc, refitting hands, anchoring power moves, etc pic.twitter.com/wzojgXeli2
The Raiders game wasn’t the best test for Remmers’ ability to contain edge pressure — but that doesn’t take away from his performance, which was good. He was consistent with his technique and showed patience throughout the game.
There were plays in which he looked like he was just barely hanging on — and realistically, that’s probably not too far from the truth — but it gets the job done. Unlike Schwartz, he doesn’t have dominant, lockdown reps — nor does he display exciting, pancake-inducing reps like Fisher. He just puts in an entire game of consistent, steady play that does just enough.
Remmers’ biggest weakness is usually his lack of speed out of his kick-slide, allowing him to get beat by speed around the edge. Thankfully, the Raiders didn’t have players who fit that bill very well — but when he’s tested on this play, Remmers still does a good job exploding out of his stance and elongating his arc. He doesn’t reach or extend behind his center of gravity, allowing him to maintain his balance and deal with inside or power counters. Finally, his hands are patient — clear evidence of a seasoned veteran.
Consistent is the best way to describe him in pass pro.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 24, 2020
Good job picking up the blitz - taking the first player inside - after taking a routine pass set to widen the DE's path. Tries to push the DE as wide as possible w/ the set but mirrors the blitzing LB back inside. pic.twitter.com/FSlltAakHT
Remmers’ experience shows in all sorts of situations.
Here is a play where he displays good blitz identification and pickup — but it’s done in such a manner that it widens the defensive end’s rushing path. Remmers is often early in picking up stunts — and when passing them off, gives his left guard as much help as possible. He’s a master at holding just enough to pull defensive ends inside, allowing the ball carrier to get around the outside. Remmers’ laundry list of savvy, veteran plays perfectly explain his play at right tackle.
Remmers will start two more games — perhaps more — at right tackle. It’s rare thing to replace an All-Pro tackle like Schwartz without missing a beat — but so far, Remmers has held up his end, perhaps even providing some small steps forward. As a run blocker, he’s been at least as good as Schwartz — specifically with his ability to function as a man or power blocker while moving just well enough to function in space.
When going up against top-end pass rushers, we’ll likely see a step back from Schwartz’ level of play — but against average defensive ends, Remmers has held his own. His technical prowess (and veteran savvy) allow him to consistently do just enough to keep from hurting his team.
The Week 12 week game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — with Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett — should provide a little more difficult test for Remmers in terms of pass protection. But after the Raiders game, we can feel oddly OK with Remmers starting at right tackle.