Chiefs line faces new challenge from Eagles pass rush
By MATT DERRICK
Sep. 14, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs racked up 537 yards of offense against the New England Patriots.
Center Mitch Morse says that game plan won't matter all that much against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
"I think each week holds its own challenges in regard to completely changing game plans," Morse said. "We're completely flushing the Patriots game and having a whole new mentality to execute the game plan this week."
The Chiefs face a radically different defensive scheme from the Eagles, but that is OK — the offensive line is hoping to build a brand of being both versatile and adaptable.
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz believes the group possesses the right blend of size, strength and speed to adopt what scheme works best for each opponent.
"You want to get good with something and make that your identity, but you also want to be able to mix it up and be able to do some alternate things and I think that's what we have the ability to do," Schwartz said.
The Chiefs return essentially the same line that struggled to find an identity a year ago. The team averaged just 343 yards per game, ranking 20th in the NFL. An injury to rookie left guard Parker Ehinger clipped the running game. The team averaged 4.4 yards per rush with Ehinger in the lineup, but the team average just 4 yards per carry after a torn ACL ended his season.
Converted tackle Bryan Witzmann is at left guard until Ehinger can return. Last week's game marked his first NFL regular-season game at guard.
"I thought it went well," Witzmann. "There are still a lot of things to work on and improve though."
The Eagles present a much different test than New England.
"New England drops eight a lot, doesn't rush the tackle as much with true defensive-end rush types," Witzmann said. "It's a big difference. You go from probably five one-on-one blocks to 40 or something this week. It's a big difference."
Perhaps the biggest burdens will fall on right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who draws the assignment opposite Fletcher Cox. The fate of quarterback Alex Smith rests on his pass protection.
"I think that's going to be huge, just playing with anticipation about what they're going to do," Duvernay-Tardif said. "It's not overly complicated defense in terms of blitzes and rushes but what they do they do it really well so, have a plan in mind to go against those guys and have a plan to defeat what they do best."
One way the Chiefs plan countering the Eagles pass-rushing relies on running the ball with rookie Kareem Hunt in the backfield. Hunt rushed for 148 yards on 17 carries in his regular-season debut last week.
"He's got the speed to run deep and down the middle he can run between the tackles," Schwartz said. "It's good to have a guy like that because then you don't show any sort of tendency when the back can do whatever."
Morse said that running the ball pulls the Eagles out of their comfort zone of blitzing the quarterback.
"They have a rushing the passer mentality," Morse said. "We've got to get them out of that by running the ball a little bit. It'll be a great test this week and we're looking forward to it."
Duvernay-Tardif believes that a winning performance against the Eagles will help the Chiefs' offensive line earn recognition that so far eludes it.
"I think if we're able to go out there this weekend and run the ball, good movement on the line of scrimmage, people are going to respect us even more," Duvernay-Tardif said."
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