When you start to build an offensive line that can dominate, you have to start somewhere and fortunately for the Kansas City Chiefs, they have two such players already in place. In fact, if you ask most football experts where that building process would ideally begin, it’s the Tackle positions. Fortunately for the Chiefs, those are the two positions of strength with Eric Fisher holding down the left side and Mitchells Schwartz on the right.
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz came to the Chiefs a year ago as a free agent when it ultimately surprised no one that he didn’t re-sign with the Cleveland Browns. On March 9th of last year, Schwartz signed a 5-year, $33M deal which made him one of the highest-paid right tackles in the league. Just like that, he went from a basement dweller to helping an emerging team win a division title.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded Mitchell Schwartz at 80.7 and ranked him as the 27th best tackle in 2016. That may not sound all that great until you do the math because there are 64 starting tackles in the league at any given time. While playing for the Browns Schwartz was considered one of the best two or three right tackles in the league and was hailed for his shutting down Von Miller of the Denver Broncos.
After a year of adjusting to Andy Reid’s West Coast Offense, we can anticipate a more seamless year in picking up any changes that may be coming to the scheme, which Reid is known for. Of all the offensive linemen the Chiefs have, Mitchell Schwartz is considered the strength of the OL.
PFF graded left tackle Eric Fisher as the 34th best tackle with a 76.7 score in 2016. He was at 72.5 in 2015 so he’s headed in the right direction. Of his performances in 2015 PFF said,
“… we did see signs of something different. Fisher didn’t exactly become an all-pro, but there were strong games, including two perfect outings in pass protection and 13 games including the playoffs during which he didn’t allow his QB to hit the turf.”
Many have criticized John Dorsey’s first pick as a general manager of the Chiefs in 2013 when he took Eric Fisher #1 overall. However, consider what PFF had this to say about the tackles in that draft in a piece released last June called, “Can Eric Fisher Become One of the NFLs Top OTs?“
“You only need to look at Fisher’s class of 2013 to see what we mean. It was supposed to be a strong year for tackle prospects, and five of them went in the first 20 picks of the draft, including Fisher at No. 1. Of those five, two — Chargers’ No. 11 pick D.J. Fluker and Giants’ No. 19 pick Justin Pugh — have already been moved to guard, Jaguars’ No. 2 pick Luke Joeckel has been consistently poor, and only Eagles No. 4 pick Lane Johnson has shown any kind of consistent stretch of excellent play at tackle, and he has a suspension for PEDs on his record.”
On August 1, 2016, five months after signing Mitchell Schwartz, the Chiefs re-signed Eric Fisher giving him a four-year $48M contract extension to lock up their bookend tackles for the foreseeable future. While Fisher still hasn’t proven to be one of the best in the league at left tackle, he’s progressing in the right direction — even if that is a very slow progression — and along with Mitchell Schwartz represent a solid pair of tackles around which the team can build. With Mitch Morse holding down the middle of the line, it’s time to see what JARD does to transform an average line into a top ten group who can survive the barrage of any team they will face in the playoffs.
While it’s difficult to project that JARD (John-Andy-Reid-Dorsey) will add to the offensive line this offseason, it should not surprise anyone if they bring in a good interior offensive free agent lineman. On March 12, 2015, two years ago, Dorsey traded for OG Ben Grubbs who was supposed to turn that position around from the woeful efforts of Mike McGlynn in 2014. Although, Grubbs ended up playing only 7 games and then being released at the end of the year… then retiring, the important point is, Dorsey did his job of attempting to improve the weakest position along the OL. Then last season, Don Stephenson exited and Mitchell Schwartz was brought in… leading this Chiefs fan to “trust in Dorsey”… for the most part. A lot will be known in the next few weeks and I, for one, am crazy excited to see how the offensive line is dealt with.