Will the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line be their downfall?

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Aug 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Tyler Bray (9) goes under center Eric Kush (64) during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 41 – 39. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports


Projected Starter: Eric Kush/Mitch Morse

The center position is the one spot on the Kansas City offensive line where it is clear that there will be a drop off in production in 2015. There are two candidates to fill the opening created with Rodney Hudson’s departure via free agency and neither of them have any real NFL starting experience to speak of. The Chiefs rookie second round draft pick Mitch Morse obviously has no NFL experience and third year player Eric Kush has just one regular season game on his resume. While either of the two could eventually become a great starting center the odds of them playing at an elite level in their first year as a starter is slim to none.

Rodney Hudson was far and away the Chiefs best offensive lineman last season. While I completely understand why KC didn’t match Oakland’s massive contract offer they will undoubtedly miss his abilities on the field. Hudson’s PFF grade of +13.0 last season was the third highest in the NFL. Even if Kush or Morse came out and proved himself a quality starter it will likely take them a few seasons to reach the level Hudson was at in 2014.

If I were a betting man I would put my money on Kush to at least start the season as the starter. First off, he has two years in Reid’s offense under his belt. While he wasn’t playing, he still knows the playbook and with the center being responsible for making the calls for the offensive line it seems unlikely that Reid would choose a rookie that is learning his first NFL playbook over a guy that knows the system. Now, if Kush struggles and Morse plays well then all bets are off.

I for one don’t believe that Kush will play badly enough to lose the job in preseason. Kush’s play in the 2014 preseason was significantly improved over his rookie year. His PFF grades back that up as well.

2013 Preseason: Ranked 74th out of 75 centers with a -6.5 overall grade and a -3.2 pass blocking grade

2014 Preseason: Ranked 3rd out of 80 centers with a +5.5 overall grade and a +2.3 pass blocking grade

While his playing time in both preseasons came against second and third string players that is still significant improvement. If nothing else it shows that Kush was dedicated to improving himself. I can’t imagine that in light of Hudson’s departure that Kush wouldn’t continue to push himself to try and earn the starting position. That doesn’t guarantee that he will have the skills needed to excel as a NFL starter, but if he doesn’t make it I don’t believe it will be due to a lack of effort.

Mitch Morse looks like he may have some upside as an interior line prospect. He plays with good agility and does a nice job of positioning himself in both the run game and in pass protection. His arms (while strong) are a little short to have long term success on the outside at tackle but he should be fine on the interior. As I mentioned he has a powerful upper body and put up impressive bench press numbers but I think in order to get the most out of that power he is going to need to work on getting lower when engaging defenders. At 6’5″ Morse will be a little tall for a center and if he’s going against a powerful shorter nose tackle it will be easy for him to lose the leverage battle. If he’s going to create push in the run game and not get bulldozed into Alex Smith’s lap it is vital that he not play too tall or upright. If Morse wants to see the field as a rookie I believe it will come down to him proving he knows the playbook and staying low in his stance.

The center position is one of three open competitions on the line that will be interesting to watch in training camp.

Center Status Compared To Last Season: Downgraded, we won’t know by how much, but it’s safe to assume whoever wins the job won’t come out of the gate already playing at Rodney Hudson’s level.

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