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Against Browns, all eyes are on Chiefs’ offensive line

Kansas City’s new-look offensive line gets its first test on Sunday.

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Construction on The Great Wall of China began in the seventh century BC and continued until the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD).

Jinshanling Great Wall At Sunrise Photo by Yang Dong/VCG via Getty Images

In total, the construction of the wall spanned over 2,000 years. It is over 12,000 miles long, it’s visible from space and is widely considered one of the greatest architectural wonders in the history of the human race. That’s a large financial investment and a large commitment in manpower.

When it comes to protecting The Kingdom, no price is too steep.

The Kansas City Chiefs' entire offseason has been defined by a single theme — the revamped offensive line. If you turn on ESPN or NFL Network, it’s the first thing you will hear their analysts mention about the Chiefs. And rightfully so. The Chiefs were embarrassed in Super Bowl LIV, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in a game that saw their franchise quarterback running for his life the whole game.

To general manager Brett Veach and the rest of the Chiefs’ scouting department’s credit, they went out and invested many hours in fixing the offensive line — or at least that’s the hope, anyway.

They started by signing guards Joe Thuney and Kyle Long and center Austin Blythe in free agency. Then they traded their first-round draft pick to the Baltimore Ravens for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. Once their left tackle was secured, they proceeded to draft center Creed Humphrey and guard Trey Smith in the 2021 NFL Draft. In 2020, they acquired Lucas Niang with their third-round pick, but he opted out of the year stemming from COVID-19.

On Sunday, the Chiefs will start a completely new offensive line when the Cleveland Browns come to town — one that features three players who will be making their NFL regular-season debut (Humphrey, Smith, Niang).

The line was broken — like really broken.

Super Bowl LV Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

We all know injuries in the Super Bowl ravaged our offensive line. I’m not talking just about the Super Bowl. In 2020, the Chiefs struggled to run the ball when it mattered most.

When the Chiefs had the ball inside the 10-yard line, they averaged 2.82 yards per carry, with an average of 7.66 yards to reach the endzone.

That means that when the Chiefs had the ball from eight yards out, they gained less than three yards per carry.

That’s not good enough.

This is why the Chiefs went out and acquired a bunch of power-blocking bulldozers to toss people around. The average weight of an NFL offensive lineman is 315 pounds. The average weight of a Chiefs offensive lineman is currently321 pounds.

“They’re obviously all extremely talented,” said Mahomes from the podium on Wednesday. “We have veterans on the left side that are Pro Bowlers, guys that have dominated in this league for a while now. Then we have the young guys who came out of college, and they were really good in college and have really picked up and learned the offense extremely fast. I think that whole offensive line group has really brought out the best in each other and competed this entire camp. I’m excited to go out there and show it off week one at Arrowhead.”

The process is underway.

NFL: AUG 27 Preseason - Vikings at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Listening to the Chiefs’ quarterback, it sounds as though he is optimistic about the outlook of the Chiefs' new offensive line while also acknowledging it’s still a work in progress.

“I feel like I have gotten better from within the pocket,” said Mahomes. “I’ll continue to work on that as I build these relationships with the offensive line and all these guys that we have going.”

Speaking on Wednesday as well, Clyde Edwards-Helaire echoed his quarterback's sentiments.

“It’s just understanding who they are as people, and really, it’s my dogs. So, just being as close as I can to them. Everything becomes mutual at that point. Everybody kind of understands the things that we’re trying to get done and personally that they know. What’s his goal and the things that we want to get accomplished? So, it all ends up working out once you get good communication and a good understanding of who’s around.”

(Author’s note: For more on Edwards-Helaire's upcoming season, check out my colleague Ron Kopp's piece on him here.)

The first test.

Divisional Round - Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

This offensive line is young. They are not going to be perfect on Sunday. There will be some beautiful moments, and there undoubtedly will be some brutal ones as well. But taking your lumps is all part of the process.

The Cleveland Browns are one of the better pass-rushing teams in the AFC, and the perfect test for the Chiefs’ newly assembled “Great Wall of KC” — or as our Brad Symcox calls it, “Great Barrier Chiefs.”

Led by a defensive player of the year candidate, Myles Garrett, and a former first overall pick, Jadeveon Clowney, the Browns have the talent to cause an inexperienced offensive line fits. But it’s also an opportunity for them to prove that they are worth all of the hype.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid knows that Sunday’s game is a chance for his young line to get valuable experience playing together.

“That’ll be a fun one to watch because their interior players are real good too, and experienced,” said Reid. “It’ll be a great experience for our guys to have the opportunity to play against them, being as young as they are.”

No doubt there will be many butterflies in stomachs come Sunday, but luckily, the Chiefs have some of the best veteran leadership in the NFL.

“We just got to make sure that they feel comfortable,” noted tight end Travis Kelce on Wednesday. “That’s the biggest thing. And that’s what the leaders in this locker room are there for. That’s what Pat Mahomes is back there for. He’s going to make sure everybody feels at ease and feels comfortable in our house, even though bullets are flying for the first time with this new offensive line.”

The bottom line

The truth is — until we see it in the regular season when it matters, it’s all still a big if.

But hey, that’s OK. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was The Great Wall of China; the Great Wall of KC will not be built in one game either.

It’s like the great Bo Jackson once said: “I’ll never worry about not being successful. I’ll just take it one day at a time, one season at a time. And play as hard as I can.”

If Brown and Niang can keep the Browns’ edge rushers at bay, and Thuney, Humphrey, and Smith can hold up against Cleveland’s interior linemen, affording Mahomes a clean pocket to work with, then the Chiefs stand a good chance of controlling the tempo of the game and leaving Arrowhead Stadium 1-0.

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