When the Chiefs signed free agent right tackle Mitchell Schwartz after last season, there weren’t many statistics to tout because, after all, Schwartz is an offensive lineman.
There was his reliability. Schwartz started all 64 games in his four years with the Cleveland Browns without missing an offensive snap.
And he was a highly graded for his position by ProFootballFocus.com.
But there was this: When the Browns met the Denver Broncos last season, Schwartz had one of his best games of the season when lined up across from outside linebacker and havoc creator Von Miller.
Miller went on to become an All-Pro and Super Bowl 50 MVP with 2 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles. But against the Browns last October, Miller didn’t record a sack and was credited with just one quarterback pressure. In two games against the Chiefs last season, Miller had two sacks and four pressures.
How did Schwartz pull it off, and can he be that effective Sunday when the Chiefs visit Denver for the first time this season?
“With a guy like that you have to get lucky in a way,” Schwartz said. “The thing that makes him so special is he can do many things to beat you.”
Schwartz’s footwork has been his calling card throughout his career, and the nimbleness paid off against Miller last season.
“He has speed off the edge, a spin and an inside move,” Schwartz said. “He’s got good power, too. If you sit back on that and expect one (move) or another, he can just throw you into the quarterback.
“There’s not much you can do to throw him off his game. If you overcompensate for anything he can beat you with a counter.”
Miller called Schwartz “a good tackle, pretty solid,” but seemed more impressed with the Browns tackle tandem of Schwartz and longtime Pro Bowler Joe Thomas.
“They have the same type of tendencies, and we all know what type of tackle Joe Thomas is. He’s a wall over there,” Miller said.
Miller’s 9 1/2 sacks this season trail only a group of three with 10, which includes the Chiefs’ Dee Ford. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Miller ranks third in the NFL with 52 quarterback pressures.
The same source ranks Schwartz as the 18th best offensive tackle, placing him in the top third at his position.
This has happened with Schwarz operating on a bum ankle for several weeks earlier in the season. He missed practice time and there was some concern he wouldn’t be able to go against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 30. He played all 74 offensive snaps.
“Everybody is going through something,” Schwartz said. “It’s kind of an unofficial NFL rule if you’re out there you’re healthy, if you’re not healthy you’re not going to be playing. That’s all there is to it.”
Chiefs co-offensive coordinator Brad Childress said Miller won’t be an issue exclusive to Schwartz.
“He can be a game-wrecker if you allow him to be,” Childress said. “He’ll take a turn with everybody. He just won’t be lined up over the right tackle. He’ll rush inside sometimes over our guards, next time we’ll see him rush the left tackle. They kind of bounce him along the line.”
That is why handling Miller falls under team enterprise, according to Schwartz.
“It’s a team thing,” Schwartz said. “If you watch the stuff from me last year, it wasn’t just me blocking every play, it was guys helping out, whether it was tight ends, running backs, other linemen doing things to affect their whole defense.”
One factor that should help the Chiefs is the ability of quarterback Alex Smith to release the ball quickly. He’s among the best at the quick release, which helps keep the pressure off.
But mostly it will be up to Schwartz and the offensive line to keep Smith clean and provide time for the offense by reducing Miller’s effectiveness.