While few would have predicted this as little as two or three months ago — and literally no one would have predicted it five months ago — it’s now clear that three rookies will start in front of quarterback Patrick Mahomes when the team opens its season against the Cleveland Browns on September 12.
But nobody in the Chiefs organization is talking as if it’s going to be a problem — including Mahomes, who faced enormous pressure behind a makeshift offensive line in last season’s championship game.
“I mean, it’s gotten better each and every week,” the quarterback said of his offensive line after the Chiefs concluded their undefeated preseason with a 28-25 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night. “I think they’ve had an amazing preseason. I haven’t got hit a lot; I don’t really think I got touched today. I think that just speaks to them and how they’ve been playing. They’ve done a great job — and gotten better each and every week — so I’m excited for the season.”
In fact, Mahomes wasn’t sacked even once during the three preseason games, playing behind a line anchored by veteran left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and rookie right tackle Lucas Niang, who began the offseason as a question mark after opting out of the 2020 season.
“Well, we’ve got a handful of guys, plus some — maybe two handfuls — that we feel are pretty good players, but he’s gotten better every week,” said head coach Andy Reid of Niang’s preseason performance. “I give him credit for that. I’ll go back and look at this — as Andy Heck will — and just see how he did. He’s had a good camp and he’s had good downs when he’s played.”
Meanwhile, the quarterback said that it all comes down to the talent among the new linemen — and the way the newly-formed group is coming together.
“‘I think it just comes with the communication — everybody being on the same page,” Mahomes told reporters. “I mean, obviously, they’re all really talented. You can see that in their practice, you can see that when they’re doing one-on-ones, whatever it is. As you kind of gel as an offensive line — with the quarterback, with the whole entire offense, when everybody is on the same exact page — is when you have those truly great offensive lines and great offenses.”
Mahomes and his offense certainly looked great on Friday night. He led the team on two touchdown drives that took a total of just 7:27 off the clock, completing all but one of his passes — and accumulating a perfect passer rating — as the team jumped out to a 14-3 lead. In any other preseason, Reid might have pulled his superstar quarterback after the first touchdown drive — but on Friday night, he kept him in for one additional possession.
“I just think the more he plays with them, the better,” explained Reid. “I thought it was an important week this week for him to have a chance to get some reps in against who I think is one of the best defensive coordinators in the National Football League. I mean, Mike Zimmer has been doing it a long time — and he’s got experienced guys over there as coaches — so they’re going to be disciplined with what they do. So I thought it was good to get in and have him get some reps there.”
But performances in preseason games can only tell you so much. The true test won’t come until the regular season begins. Still... Mahomes didn’t sound like he is concerned.
“I think you see us as games are going on, we’re communicating better and better,” he said. “And I think we’ll continue to improve throughout the season.”