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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs had high hopes for their offensive line last year after investing heavily in the position group following a Super Bowl LV loss where the unit was overwhelmed. They spent free agent dollars on left guard Joe Thuney, traded draft picks to acquire left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. from the Baltimore Ravens, then selected center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith in the 2021 draft.
They could have exceeded those expectations.
“It worked out better because on one end we had confidence in Orlando and Thuney,” general manager Brett Veach said. “On the other end, we had high hopes for Trey and Creed, but the guys playing at the level they did was definitely a nice surprise.
“That’s the hope you have for all the guys you draft. Sometimes it hits like that. And sometimes it takes time and sometimes it doesn’t. So for those guys to come in and be able to play with that same was great for us.”
The Chiefs were second last season in pass block win rate (67.8%) and third in run block win rate (74.0%). Individually among regular starters, Humphrey, a second-round pick out of Oklahoma, was the top pass-blocking center (97.7%). Thuney, signed to a five-year, $80 million contract after spending five seasons with the New England Patriots, was first among guards in PBWR (96.6%), followed by Smith (96.0%), a sixth-round pick from Tennessee.
The Chiefs are looking for more this season.
“We want to be known this year as one of the most physically dominant lines in the league,” Humphrey said. “We’ve got the pieces. We’ve got the guys to do it. That’s our whole outlook, to be physical, for the physicality to show through and to make teams know when they play us that they’re going to play a offensive line that plays through the whistle that ends plays and stuff like that.
“Everybody came in with a willingness to work and a willingness to get better together. Everybody worked really well together. Everybody worked on all their strengths, all their weaknesses, and it worked for the best. We look forward to continuing to improve on it in this field.”
Added Thuney: “It started way back at the beginning [offseason practice], just talking about it, watching film, seeing what we can do to improve, run game, passing game, the whole aspect of offensive line. You will always be a physical offensive line. It takes all five guys. It starts there and it keeps building and building. Training camp is a great place to grow it even more.
“It’s been great to have a year behind us. Obviously, it’s early in training camp and there’s a lot to get better at, improve on. But so far so good.”
Last year’s offensive line rebuild was overdue. The Chiefs spent very little in free agency or early draft picks on their offensive line in the late 2010s. The line collapsed during the 2020 season, completely crumbling in their Super Bowl LV loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes spent much of that 31-9 loss running from a relentless pass rush.
Acquiring Brown at left tackle was a big move in the rebuild. The Chiefs sent their 2021 first-round pick along with three other picks to the Ravens to acquire the 6-foot-8, 340-pound tackle. But Brown was 42nd in pass block win rate (87.1%) among tackles who played at least 100 snaps last season. So left tackle is one spot where the Chiefs’ offensive line has room for improvement.
“I want to make progress in almost any way, shape or form,” said Brown, who played right tackle for three seasons in Baltimore before moving to left tackle with the Chiefs. “I want to be a better run blocker, a better pass blocker, a better leader … so they can count on me when they need me the most. That was something that I feel like I struggled with a little bit last year, right to put myself in the best position when the games were close on certain third downs or in close games against certain talents.”