Don’t look now, but the Chiefs’ makeshift and much-maligned offensive line has started playing better in recent weeks.
Several players credited the line’s rugged performance in the Chiefs’ 41-14 victory over the Patriots on Monday night, and coach Andy Reid did the same at his Tuesday teleconference with reporters.
“I thought they played well,” Reid said. “Not that we don’t have plenty of room to improve, but I thought they came out and played tough, hard-nosed football, which is a good starting point.”
The Chiefs’ line features only one starter, center Rodney Hudson, who is playing in the same position he did last season. Left tackle Eric Fisher moved over from right tackle, right guard Zach Fulton is a rookie, while left guard Mike McGlynn and right tackle Ryan Harris are filling in for missing starters Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson.
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The Chiefs have still allowed 13 sacks, the second-most in the NFL, but have been churning out yards on the ground behind this group. Over the last two games, the Chiefs have rushed for 381 yards on 79 carries, an average of 4.81 yards-per-carry, and scored a total of 75 points.
The success the Chiefs have had on the ground lately will make it interesting to see whether Stephenson, who returns this week from a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, immediately steps in and resumes his starting role.
“I really haven’t spent a whole lot of time on that part, but we’ll see where he’s at physically,” Reid said of Stephenson. “I think he’s probably in pretty good shape right now, but we’ll see. We’ll get him back in the swing of things and see how he does.”
When asked about Fisher, his other tackle, Reid said he’s happy with the progress he’s seen the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 make on a week-to-week basis. Fisher allowed a sack on Monday to New England star Chandler Jones but otherwise had a quiet night.
“He’s just gotten better and better and better,” Reid said. “He had an All-Pro player he was playing against. I thought he did a great job there. … He is athletic, and he is big, and he moves around well. Chandler is going to make his plays — he does it on the best of them — but I’ll tell you, Eric did a heck of a job against him.”
Reid said Jamaal Charles’ ankle was sore Tuesday “but he’s doing OK,” while safety Eric Berry — who missed Monday’s game with a high-ankle sprain — is feeling “a tad better.”
Receiver Donnie Avery has an adductor strain, while running back De’Anthony Thomas is slowly working his way back from a hamstring injury. Thomas ran routes at a brisk pace before Monday’s game but did not play.
“He’s feeling pretty good,” Reid said. “Right now, I’m in the ‘let’s just see how we do at practice mode with some of these guys, but he made it through last week OK and looks like he’s doing better there.”
McKnight to IR
The Chiefs placed running back Joe McKnight on injured reserve Tuesday, officially ending his season. McKnight ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in practice last week. The move could open a roster spot for Stephenson, who is returning from a four-game suspension this week.