As Kansas City Chiefs training camp continues, the AP Nerd Squad continues to break down the Chiefs roster position by position. We’re working from the top of the depth chart to the bottom, briefing you on how we think each position group will play out.
Going into this season, this team’s offensive tackles looked to be pretty high quality, with Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz as starters, backed up with veteran Mike Remmers and newly-drafted, high-upside rookie Lucas Niang — along with depth players like Jackson Barton, Greg Senat and undrafted rookie Yasir Durant who are trying to work onto the roster.
Unfortunately, Niang felt it was best for him and his family if he exercised his option to sit out the 2020 campaign, leaving the Chiefs in a bit of a bind behind their starters.
While the starters are locked in, what do the Chiefs plan behind them now? Is Remmers the top backup across four offensive line positions? Are one of these young players ready to step up and take over if a spot starter is needed?
Let’s take a look at the options the Chiefs have at offensive tackle.
While the Chiefs starting tackles form one of the better units in the NFL, there is a clear pecking order between the two. The guy at the top of the food chain is right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
2️⃣ 3️⃣ days until NFL kickoff— PFF (@PFF) August 18, 2020
PFF's No.23 player entering the 2020 season:
⭐️ Mitchell Schwartz pic.twitter.com/RauRPWK0gZ
Over the last few years, Schwartz has been one of — if not the — best tackles in the league. He just continues to roll along.
Schwartz may not have the most elite athleticism — or even top-tier strength — but his technical prowess and the time he puts into studying opponents still allow him to dominate.
At the beginning of last season, Schwartz was dealing with some back pain. That may have led to his slower-than-usual start — but by the end of the season, he was shutting down the pass rush on the right side like normal.
With Schwartz this season, there are two things worth watching. First, how well will he be moving to start the season? With the shorter training camp, will he he able to just pick up where he’s always been — or will he gradually return to his peak shape mid-season? Second, with new players on the offensive line and at running back, how will he fare if the Chiefs alter their running game? If the Chiefs opt to utilize more power-style runs, how will Schartz fold into that role — as compared to being an effective reach-blocker on outside-zone runs?
New kid on the block
Remmers would fit into this section, but he was already covered on the interior — where many assumed he would play before Niang opted out. So let’s look at undrafted free agent Yasir Durant.
Being from Philadelphia, Yasir Durant grew up rooting for Andy Reid. Now he gets to suit up for Big Red as a Chief pic.twitter.com/CdNRXoMdhN— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) May 11, 2020
Durant is a massive player — 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds — who had some teams wondering if he should play tackle or guard in the NFL. While it hasn’t been entirely clear where the Chiefs plan to use him, with the thin depth at tackle, it makes sense to let him continue there for the time being.
Durant plays just like his size would indicate: he’s a mauler who has some heavy-footed tendencies as a pass protector. Durant possesses good power in his hands — and has the length to disrupt pass rushers early on — but he can struggle to mirror more agile rushers up the arc. As a run blocker, he does a good job moving defenders out of the way to open lanes, but he isn’t a guy you’ll see moving gracefully through space to line up blocks on the second level. While he doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional Andy Reid offensive tackle, if there’s a transition to a more stout, powerful line, he could be a player to watch.
Jackson Barton was a seventh-round draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts who was signed to their practice squad before the Chiefs swiped him in the middle of last season.
Jackson Barton - signed from Indy's Practice Squad last season - could be a name to keep an eye on this season for Chiefs fans.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) August 20, 2020
With Cam Erving gone and Lucas Niang opting out, a back-up OT is necessary in case Fisher or Schwartz miss time. Remmers is getting those reps, for now pic.twitter.com/Vej2jeZqkm
Barton is another very large man — 6-feet-7 and 310 pounds — who shares some of the same heavy-footed tendencies Durant has. But Barton moves better in space, showcasing some nice explosion out of his stance when working forward in the run game. Barton brings some steam to a low-key hype train — mostly stemming from the fact that the Colts weren’t happy to lose him from their practice squad. Barton still needs plenty of work on his technique — and he may not have a very high ceiling — but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him getting some spot starts this season.
This really depends on how many offensive linemen the Chiefs keep — and where they see Remmers playing. If they feel that Remmers could play on the outside, the battle comes down to Greg Senat against Yasir Durant for the fourth and final tackle position — assuming Remmers is a utility offensive lineman and Barton is the third pure tackle.
But if the Chiefs feel less confident in Remmers than they did in Cameron Erving last season, it will be up to the same cast of characters to take that job from Remmers, as he appears to be the one stepping in for Fisher during training camp.
At this point, the team’s offensive tackle depth looks very unstable — and rather porous — so the Chiefs have to hope for a healthy season from both Fisher and Schwartz. The loss of Niang not only hurts his development. but also disturbs the team’s plans; he was the lead candidate to become the backup tackle. His loss now forces the team to rely on depth players — or to put Remmers back outside, where he has struggled throughout his career.