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The Chiefs’ options if Orlando Brown Jr. holds out from training camp

Which players are in line to step up if Kansas City’s left tackle chooses to hold out?

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

On Friday, we learned that the Kansas City Chiefs were unable to make a long-term deal with their franchise-tagged left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. before the deadline to do so. Reports from Brown’s camp have indicated that this could lead to a holdout from training camp practices — and maybe even games.

Whether or not Brown will go through with that is unknown — but either way, the Chiefs will have a plan ready. What could that look like? Let’s go through all of Kansas City’s options.

Returning players: Lucas Niang, Andrew Wylie and Prince Tega-Wanogho

NFL: JAN 02 Chiefs at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The most obvious answer to fill in would be Niang — but unfortunately, the patella injury he suffered in last season’s Week 17 game may keep him from starting training camp on time.

His pro debut at left tackle — a position he never even played in college — came in that same game. He was on the field for just six snaps before being injured. He showed off a few clean reps in pass protection against Cincinnati Bengals’ edge rusher Trey Hendrickson, who has earned 27.5 sacks over the last two years.

His strengths as a player will be his power and ability to move defenders in the running game — but in his brief look last season, his ability to quickly get depth in his pass set looked like a work in progress. That said, he looked smooth on the first play shown here. The big question will be if he can endure an entire start with that same clean technique and impressive feet.

The most experienced veteran option would be Wylie, but he has no experience at left tackle from which to draw. His 2020 move from the interior to tackle only gave him snaps on the right side — although he did play left guard in 2019.

A sleeper here would be Wanogho, who is three years removed from being a sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. Last season, he was on the field for six snaps at left tackle — three in each of the two games in which he appeared.

Here, you see him show off sound technique while setting the edge on the front side of an outside run play. If not for missed blocks elsewhere, his ability to turn and seal the alley could’ve made this a big run.

At Auburn, Wanogho played 2,086 career snaps at left tackle over three seasons, allowing only one sack during his final two years.

Newcomers: Darian Kinnard, Roderick Johnson and Geron Christian

LA Monroe v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

All offseason, we’ve talked about the rookie Kinnard as a right tackle — but if the incumbent Wylie holds strong on the right, he could slide over to the left for the time being. As a freshman at Kentucky, Kinnard played 143 snaps at left tackle before being moved to the right side — and he never went back.

The rookie has a name that is more well-known to Kansas City fans, but Johnson and Christian are likely stronger candidates to step in right away. Johnson was drafted in 2017, playing 198 snaps at left tackle in 2019 and 2020. Christian has played over 1,000 career snaps on the left edge. That includes being the Houston Texans’ primary starter last season.

Earlier this offseason, AP film analyst Bryan Stewart took a closer look at Christian’s play. Most of all, he came away impressed with Christian’s pass protection, seeing a nice balance between quick feet and the ability to anchor against power rushers.

Roderick Johnson didn’t play an in-game snap in 2021. His last play came in 2020 — also for the Texans.

Johnson has shown some good qualities in his limited NFL experience. He consistently fires off the ball fast, getting to the point of engagement quickly.

In the first play shown here, you can see him looking for work, helping to create running lanes by sealing linebackers.

But going up against edge rusher Carl Lawson — who earned a big payday after the 2020 season — his pass protection reps didn’t look as good. He didn’t look comfortable dealing with Lawson’s multiple-move rushes — and against the rest of the AFC West’s edge rushers, that won’t get any easier.

Other options: Joe Thuney and Eric Fisher

NFL: JAN 02 Chiefs at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In a last-minute pinch, the team’s starting left guard could also be their best option at left tackle. That’s what happened when Niang (who was already substituting for the absent Brown) was injured last season: Thuney slid out to the edge, keeping quarterback Patrick Mahomes clean for the most part. Thuney allowed one quarterback pressure on 40 pass-protection snaps.

Here, the CBS broadcast got a great look at Thuney’s technique on a pass-rushing snap against Hendrickson.

But if the Chiefs don’t want to disrupt other positions in their starting lineup, they may consider bringing in an external option — and there’s one free agent who has a very familiar face: Eric Fisher.

Fisher started 113 games for this organization and coaching staff, playing 7,686 snaps at left tackle — all the way up to the devastating Achilles tear he suffered in the 2021 AFC Championship.

After Kansas City moved on, Fisher caught on with the Indianapolis Colts. He started 15 games, putting together some impressive play for someone fresh off an Achilles recovery. He has yet to be signed this offseason, so it could make sense for the Chiefs to bring him in — even if it’s just for training camp.

It could be a mutually beneficial deal. The Chiefs could have a veteran who could either fill in or help the young guys do so — while Fisher gets a training camp to ready himself for the season in case another team needs his services.