The suggestion that the Chiefs might not be registering a fair evaluation of the offense because of injuries on the line was met with a stiff arm by Doug Pederson.
“You’re obviously evaluating each player on a per-play basis, and obviously the ultimate result is to have everyone grade high on every play,” said Pederson, the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. “But no, you can’t just single out one specific group on offense. You just have to take each play and each individual player and coach at that particular time.”
With left tackle Eric Fisher and right guard Jeff Allen still nursing injuries and not expected to play in the third preseason game Friday against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs have shuffled the line.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif started at right guard and Paul Fanaika at right tackle in last week’s 14-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
The new group had a rough start. Fanaika has been a guard throughout his five-year NFL career, and Duvernay-Tardif ran into Jamaal Charles on a screen pass, ending the play.
“Hiccups,” coach Andy Reid said.
There’s no timetable for the return of Fisher and Allen, but they’re not expected to miss extended time.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs likely will forge ahead with a makeshift offensive line in what Reid calls the most significant preseason game.
“The way we do it now, it’s important for sure,” Reid said. “It’s kind of the final tuneup, and that’s what most teams do around the league.”
Fisher suffered a high-ankle sprain at practice before the preseason opener. Allen sprained a knee during the opening game at Arizona. Before the opener, the Chiefs had shuffled the offensive line seeking the right cast that starts with Fisher and left guard Ben Grubbs.
Before Fisher’s injury, the Chiefs had worked with different sets of starters with some overlap. Neither included Duvernay-Tardif or Fanaika. Fisher and Grubbs were the constants.
If nothing else, the injuries and shuffling have allowed the Chiefs to test different looks. Still, at a time when an offensive line can be building chemistry, the Chiefs are dealing with injuries and plugging holes.
“That’s the hard thing,” Pederson said. “With guys being hurt, it’s hard to get a true evaluation of, let’s say, your top five guys, because not everybody is in there.
“But the guys that are in there played against a tremendous defensive front last week. Did they get beat a few times? Yeah, they did. But they rebounded well.”
That offensive line paved the way for a 14-play, 83-yard drive that consumed 7:14 in the second quarter and ended with Alex Smith’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin. It’s been the only Chiefs’ touchdown drive in eight possessions with the first-team offense. The group produced a field goal the previous week.
Smith has taken the offensive line shuffling in stride. He was sacked twice against the Seahawks, and the line’s inability to pick up a stunt against the Cardinals led to an interception. Still, Smith sees the value in depth building.
“We’ve got a ton of great work,” Smith said. “There’s been a lot of movement up front, there have been a lot of moving parts and guys have been jumping in and out, and all those guys have been switched around.
“You’ve got guys playing multiple positions. I think that is all really good work because during the season, that’s what happens. You’ve got seven (offensive linemen) dressing and if something happens, guys have to be flexible.”
To Reid, the responsibility doesn’t change no matter who is playing.
“We’ll run our stuff, we’ve got trust in the guys that are in there and we go with it,” Reid said. “You go play and do the best of your ability.”