The Chiefs’ shakeup along the offensive line continued Monday, and while some of it had to do with coach Andy Reid’s desire to mix and match players in hopes of finding the best group, some of it had to do with injuries.
For instance, while the Chiefs opened practice with a new look at right guard — Laurent Duvernay-Tardif worked with the first team in place of the starter in Saturday’s preseason opener against Arizona, Zach Fulton — the look of the line quickly changed even more midway through practice when left tackle Eric Fisher suffered a left ankle injury.
During the team’s nine-on-seven portion of practice, Fisher limped to the sideline, was treated in the trainers tent and was later taken up the hill leading back to the locker room on a cart.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid later called Fisher’s injury an ankle sprain, though he did not know if it was high ankle sprain, which lingers longer than a normal sprain.
Donald Stephenson shifted over to Fisher’s spot at left tackle. Stephenson was already practicing at first-team right tackle in place of normal starter Jeff Allen, who went down in Saturday’s preseason win because of a MCL sprain. Second-team tackle Jarrod Pughsley was elevated to first-string right tackle.
“We saw good things in the game, we saw some good things today,” Reid said of Pughsley. “He’s not short on opportunities out here. He got a lot of reps in the game and then we asked him to come back out here and take a lot of reps today, so I’m sure he’s a little bit tired and sore. But he did a nice job of pushing through it.”
Starting next to Pughsley — who logged 34 snaps Saturday, the second-most of anyone on the line — was Duvernay-Tardif over Fulton.
“Again, we’re looking at combinations,” said Reid, downplaying the move. “We’re gonna find the five that we feel best play together and work from there and we’re gonna keep moving and shuffling if we need to.”
Reid said Duvernay-Tardif, like Pughsley, played well against the Cardinals.
“He has good athletic ability … the more he plays, the better he’s gonna get,” Reid said. “This gives him an opportunity to get a few more reps. We’ll see how he does.”
Duvernay-Tardif — a second-year pro has spent most of his time in practice on the left side — said he was told he’d been elevated to first-team right guard when he arrived at Missouri Western before practice Monday.
“It felt good,” said Duvernay-Tardif, from McGill University in Canada. “I’ve been working really hard on the left side and I know I have a lot of things to improve on the right side, so it was good to take some reps on the right side and work on the basics.”
But he admitted he is still learning the mental side of the game at the NFL level, where stunts and blitzes can happen in the blink of an eye.
“When the defense is about to twist or spike inside, I need to be alert on that and be able to not slow down, but keep my head up and my feet underneath me and recognize those fronts,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “(But) I’m getting a lot better.
“I was looking at my preseason game from last year compared to (this) preseason game, and I think I’m proving myself. I did OK (Saturday). Like, assignment-wise, I had no mental errors. But I think I need to work on the basic stuff like my hand placement and (keeping) my head up.”
Duvernay-Tardif knows he will need to make some strides in all these areas, however, if he wants to lock down the starting job
“I just want to be the best at my position,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “So I’m working hard to achieve that.”
If he can find a way to get there, it will be a boon for a line that remains in flux, in part because of injuries, though Reid can see progress.
“We did better this year in the first game than we did last year,” Reid said. “So we’re getting better.”