The Chiefs will have an improved offensive line
The Kansas City Chiefs could not block last year. Literally, it was almost like Mike McGlynn and the boys were being paid off by the other team to just play dead. It all resulted in Alex Smith suffering a ruptured spleen in Week 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game that was largely lost because of the line’s failures.
Looking back at 2014, it was without question the worst position group on the team. General manager John Dorsey took clear note and allowed McGlynn to walk in free agency, along with right tackle Ryan Harris and guard Jeff Linkenbach. Center Rodney Hudson also left to join the Oakland Raiders, although Kansas City was reportedly trying hard to bring him back.
Still, in the final analysis, the line in 2015 will be vastly better than the version we saw in December. Let me tell you why.
Left tackle: Eric Fisher is replacing … Eric Fisher. So it’s a wash, right? Nope. Fisher did not have an offseason last year after getting shoulder surgery. He was also getting acclimated to the left side after starting as a rookie at right tackle. Fisher is now going back to the same position and was able to get in a full offseason of work. Many player make a sizable jump in Year Three, and I expect that from Fisher.
Left Guard: No position was upgraded more than this one. The Chiefs are going from McGlynn, who Pro Footbal Focus rated correctly as the worst guard in the NFL, to Ben Grubbs. Grubbs, a two-time Pro Bowler, is going to give Kansas City a mauler in the run game with some of the nimblest feet you have seen. After watching him on film, I can’t wait to see Grubbs in screens and pulls. Look out.
Center: The Chiefs are going to take a legitimate step back here. Hudson was one of the top five centers in football, so his lost is pronounced. The battle between Mitch Morse and Eric Kush is one to watch closely in training camp, and one I expect Morse to win. If that’s the case, it is insane to expect a second-round rookie to play to Hudson’s level. Regardless, this will be a process.
Right guard: Again, this is similar to Fisher’s situation. Zach Fulton is coming into his second season and after performing inconsistently as a sixth-round rookie, can only be better. Fulton really progressed at the end of 2014, getting a PFF grade of +0.1 over the last five games. While I don’t always agree with PFF, it matched up with what I saw on tape. Kansas City also brought in Paul Fanaika, giving Fulton competition. If Fanaika wins the job, it means he’s better than a second-year version of Fulton.
Right tackle: Ryan Harris was mediocre at best in 2014. With Jeff Allen returning from injury and Donald Stephenson (hopefully) starting off on the right foot this season, right tackle will be turned around. Allen is adequate and Stephenson is very talented. Between the two, who are both in contract years, the Chiefs should find one good solution at this spot.
Overall, four of the five spots will be better this time around. The line was one of the worst units in the NFL last year, and the Chiefs still finished 16th overall in scoring. If the offensive front can even be average in 2015, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Andy Reid get the offense into the top 10.