Chiefs to debut retooled O-line in opener vs. Browns
The most significant concern buzzing around the Kansas City Chiefs preseason camp involved improvement needed along the offensive line.
In particular, better protection is a must to spare Patrick Mahomes from being battered like he was in a lopsided Super Bowl defeat. Results from a complete overhaul up front will begin to surface Sunday when Kansas City opens the season at home against the Cleveland Browns.
“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 1,” said Mahomes, who was pressured a withering 29 times by Tampa Bay defenders in a 31-9 Super Bowl beatdown.
Further development along the line, which added the likes of Pro Bowler Orlando Brown Jr. and a second-round rookie, Creed Humphrey, could well determine Kansas City’s fate. The Chiefs will bid for a third consecutive AFC Championship and sixth straight AFC West crown.
Weapons galore return for Kansas City’s prolific attack, beginning with Mahomes, who carries a touchdown-to-interception ratio of plus-90 as he enters his fifth season. He trailed only Deshaun Watson in passing yards last season with 4,740, while Travis Kelce set an NFL receiving record for tight ends with 1,416 yards.
Tyreek Hill remains a speedy mismatch Mahomes looks to exploit, while Clyde Edwards-Helaire is coming off an 803-yard rushing output as a rookie. Edwards-Helaire declared himself “100 percent healthy” after suffering an ankle injury in the preseason.
The Chiefs have won 14 consecutive games in September, a month that also finds Mahomes 10-0 as a starter. However, Kansas City coach Andy Reid knows that the offensive line will be a focal point, particularly with three rookies manning the center and guard positions against a stout Cleveland defensive front.
“That’ll be a fun one to watch because their interior players are real good and experienced,” Reid said. “It’ll be a great experience for our guys to have the opportunity to play against them, being as young as they are.”
Last season, the Browns advanced to the playoffs for the third time in 27 seasons, going 11-5. The Chiefs ousted them in the divisional round 22-17 despite an injury suffered by Mahomes.
Keeping Mahomes from engineering a ton of possessions could be a strategic move for Cleveland, having finished third in the NFL in rushing last season behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who suffered a torn ACL last October, appears healthy and will be one of the receivers Baker Mayfield targets. The former Heisman Trophy winner improved his passing efficiency a year ago by completing 62.8 percent of his attempts, with 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
“We have the bread and butter, the fundamentals, the schemes that we know we’re good at,” Mayfield said. “We need to keep building off those and do those extremely well.”
A defensive makeover for the Browns included the signing of six free agents headed by Jadeveon Clowney, as well as two draft picks expected to start in the opener, Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
“The people we’ve brought in and the pieces, culture-wise, it’s been great for the team and franchise,” Mayfield said. “It needs to continue to head that way, and that’s one of my biggest jobs.”
An illness prevented Clowney from practicing at the beginning of the week, though he tested negative for COVID-19.
The Chiefs’ Tyrann Mathieu remained in COVID-19 protocol to begin weekly workouts. Reid indicated Mathieu would not necessarily need to practice to play Sunday, if cleared. Another defender, Frank Clark, is dealing with a strained hamstring.
–Field Level Media