Chiefs GM Brett Veach: O-line will include 'blending' veterans with new talent in 2021

Kansas City's greatest weakness reared its ugly head at the worst possible time in the 2020 season, and the Chiefs intend to make sure it doesn't happen again.

After two injuries at tackle forced the Chiefs to roll out a lineup smattered with backup blockers, Kansas City's high-powered offense found itself stuck in the deepest of ruts in Super Bowl LV, watching Patrick Mahomes repeatedly run for his life against Tampa Bay's highly effective base rushes in a blowout loss to the Buccaneers. What was once Kansas City's most dangerous weapon was chopped down at its knees, and with an offseason to remedy the issue, general manager Brett Veach said Monday it's safe to expect the Chiefs' offensive line to look different in 2021.

"I think it will be a combination of what we have in-house and blending that with some new talent," Veach said.

What the Chiefs have in-house are two solid tackles in Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, both of whom were knocked out of action by significant injuries at considerably different points of the season (Schwartz before the midway point, and Fisher in the AFC Championship Game). Both also underwent operations in recent weeks to repair their ailments, and it's fair to wonder how much longer Schwartz, who turns 32 in June, will continue to play. Veteran guard Kelechi Osemele was effective in his lone season in Kansas City, but that campaign was cut short by a season-ending injury after five games, and he is headed for free agency.

Guards Andrew Wylie and Nick Allegretti remain, as does center Austin Reiter, and although Wylie was forced to move to right tackle to help the Chiefs deal with their myriad injuries up front and didn't fare well in the Super Bowl, Veach liked what he saw as a whole. He's also encouraged by what the Chiefs might get out of two key linemen who opted out because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Lucas Niang.

"(Offensive line) Coach [Andy] Heck and our staff did an amazing job," Veach said. "We had two opt outs with LDT and Niang, we certainly missed those two players throughout the course of the season and we did a lot of shuffling as you know. And certainly the final blow was losing Fisher in that Bills game, and that was a daunting task to go against that front in the Super Bowl, so we do like some of the young players and their progress and their development. Andrew Wylie showed that he can play on a consistent level at that guard position and Allegretti took a step forward, (and) we're anxious to get Niang back. So, we have a nice blend of some young players that are continuing to get better and we think will continue to improve but certainly our focus will be to bring in some new talent.

"I think it's safe to say that we'll be addressing that in any area we can."

Super Bowl LV was an anomaly when evaluating the Chiefs' offensive line because by that point, they'd lost three starters, and four if you count Osemele, who arrived to replace Duvernay-Tardif before he also saw his season cut short. A line that should have been comprised of Fisher, Allegretti, Reiter, Duvernay-Tardif and Schwartz ended up being Mike Remmers, Allegretti, Reiter, Stefen Wisniewski and Wylie.

But depth is arguably as important as top-end effectiveness along the offensive line. One needn't look further than footage of Mahomes scrambling repeatedly -- covering the most distance before passing in a single game in the history of the Next Gen Stats era -- to know this to be true.

The possible return of Duvernay-Tardif and Niang would give the Chiefs a starter and a reserve to bolster the group, and Veach said Monday the team is hoping to get Schwartz, who underwent surgery to repair a disc issue in his back, and Fisher (torn Achilles) back in time for training camp. They'll aim to rejoin Mahomes, who underwent his own operation to address a turf toe problem.

"It's a three-month recovery so we're hopeful somewhere around that mandatory mini camp, if we have, we certainly think by training camp he'll be good to go and we'll be smart with him," Veach said of Mahomes. "Mitch just recently had his disc worked on and we're hopeful for him to return in training camp and the same thing with Fish. So, we're hopeful both these guys will complete their rehab and be available for training camp and to start the 2021 season."

There's work left to be done on the rehab front and with the upcoming draft. But as Veach made clear Monday, the Chiefs know they'll need to be better up front in 2021 -- and they plan on attacking the challenge.

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