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How the Chiefs’ new-look offensive line can change the running scheme

On Wednesday’s Out of Structure podcast, we took a closer look at how the Chiefs’ offense changes with the new offensive line.

Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

On Wednesday’s mailbag edition of the Arrowhead Pride Out of Structure podcast, Matt Stagner and I talked a lot about Kansas City Chiefs training camp — and answered numerous questions about it from Twitter.

Speaking of the bird app, it became obsessed with a specific play from Chiefs training camp that was caught on video during Saturday’s practice. G-T Counter is its name, meaning that the back side guard and tackle are the two pulling players; the guard kicks out the play side defensive end, while the tackle pulls and leads the running back through the hole created by the guard’s kick out and the front side of the line’s down-blocking.

Former Chiefs offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz drew it up for everyone to see on paper. It’s a type of gap-scheme run, which means the offense is scheming to hit a particular hole by blocking defenders away from the gap with down blocks and pulling blockers.

Traditionally, Andy Reid has used a zone-run scheme — where the blockers are assigned to a particular part of the field to block rather than an individual defender — as his base run package, but the overhaul of the offensive line for 2021 has raised the question:

Will the Chiefs run more gap-scheme runs like Guard-Tackle counter this season?

They should, at least.

The zone-run scheme is usually run by teams that may not have the most physically-dominant offensive line. Zone allows the linemen to get to a spot and be more of a blockade for the defensive lineman to get through rather than having to move the defender out of the way — especially as an interior offensive lineman.

That’s exactly why the Chiefs have been able to succeed with low-investment in their center and guard positions. This year, they flipped the script and signed one of the best, most proven guards in the league — Joe Thuney — and drafted strong, powerful players in center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith.

On top of that, they traded for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.; not only is he a mountain of a man, he has experience as a puller in a gap-run scheme from his time with the Baltimore Ravens.

All those signs point to the Chiefs’ offense being able to utilize those plays more effectively. The big advantage with gap-run plays is they result in big, chunk runs more often than a typical zone run. The running back is looking for any crease and turning up to get positive yards on a zone run — while in a correctly executed gap-run play, he’ll be following a lead blocker and hitting a specific hole that could blow wide open.

The 2020 team did use traditional gap runs, but at a very minimal rate. One of the times they did so resulted in an important touchdown: a six-yard run by running back Darrel Williams in the AFC Championship game.

Besides the line’s blocking assignments, this play can also turn into a passing opportunity away from the run direction. With the back side tackle pulling, the defensive end across from him is unblocked. The Chiefs have used a motion from a running back or a player like wide receiver Tyreek Hill into the flat, toward the direction of the unblocked defensive end. Mahomes will read the end, seeing if he reacts hard to the run action or if he stays to possibly defend the motioned player in the flat.

If the edge defender does commit to the running back, Mahomes can pull it and have three pass-catching options while the defense is likely short-handed due to the reaction to the run fake.

The run part of this play can be executed closer to its fullest extent with the upgraded offensive line, while the passing plays that come off of it could lead to huge plays. There’s good reason for the Chiefs to emphasize this type of play more often in 2021.

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