The Chiefs have largely stood pat with the offensive line from last season. They didn’t draft a lineman, and the lone significant offseason acquisition to the unit has been the signing of free agent guard Andrew Tiller, who started 14 games for the San Francisco 49ers over the previous two seasons.
The team has confidence in the position group that includes on the current roster every player who started a game for the Chiefs last season.
But don’t confuse familiarity for satisfaction, at least from the players’ perspective.
“You can never perfect continuity,” center Mitch Morse said during organized team activities Tuesday. “Now, really focusing on how our techniques can help better protect the quarterback and get the run game going and scoring touchdowns.”
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The Chiefs finished with the NFL’s 14th-best offensive line Pro Football Focus grade, which suggested the group was “good but not great across the board.”
It gave Morse the top overall grade and listed guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif as the top pass blocker and tackle Eric Fisher as the best run blocker.
The Chiefs dealt with one major injury last season, when rookie left guard Parker Ehinger, inserted as a starter early in training camp, was lost for the season because of a knee injury at Indianapolis.
Otherwise, the Chiefs got 16 starts each from Fisher, Morse and Mitchell Schwartz, 14 from Duvernay-Tardif and 12 from Zach Fulton.
Lack of change is something new for Schwartz, a former Cleveland Browns tackle who begins his second year with the Chiefs after signing a five-year, $33 million deal.
“It’s my first year to have the same system in back-to-back years,” Schwartz said. “I’ve seen a lot of offensive coordinator and head coach turnover. It’s been nice to be familiar with it and not have to learn the basics of the play. You can learn the intricate details.
“That’s what great about this offense. They’ve had have five years of it now and every year you learn a little bit more, what works and what doesn’t and what adjustments to make.”
The starting group is young — Schwartz, the oldest among the regulars, will be 28 when the 2017 season begins — and home grown. Fisher, the overall top pick in 2013, Morse, Duvernay-Tardif, Fulton and Ehinger were drafted by the Chiefs.
The group helped the Chiefs to a 12-4 record and West Division title, but also couldn’t get the offense going in a home playoff loss to the Steelers, when the Chiefs mustered only 227 total yards and quarterback Alex Smith was largely ineffective.
Still, Morse knows this is Smith’s team and he sees that as a strengthening bond for the offense. Yes, the Chiefs drafted the player they believe will succeed Smith in Patrick Mahomes, but Morse has only worked with Smith.
“He’s going to be our quarterback no matter what,” Morse said. “He’s been the general since day one since I’ve been here. He hasn’t done anything to work backwards. Al’s our QB, rock and roll … Al’s the man.”