Maybe it’s a myth.
Players on an offensive line must play together, grow as a unit and get to know the tendencies of one other to function at full effectiveness. So we’ve heard.
Then how to explain Sunday night’s performance by the Chiefs against the Cincinnati Bengals?
With guard Andrew Wylie making his first NFL start and Jordan Devey playing for the second time this season — and at a second position, this time at center — the Chiefs put together their best offensive performance of the year in a 45-10 victory.
Their 551 total yards and 198 rushing yards were both season highs. Their 33 first downs tied for the second most in a game in team history.
The game was so one-sided, NBC’s ratings sunk. The Chiefs’ blowout marked the lowest-rated Sunday Night Football broadcast to date.
The Chiefs’ linemen say continuity and communication matter. But so does talent, and the Chiefs believe they’ve developed a solid group up front.
“Guys have come in and played pretty well,” tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. “Sometimes you get a tendency to focus on the guys who are playing and you kind of lose sight on the developmental stuff.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was sacked twice on Sunday for a total of five yards. But that’s quibbling. Every facet of the Chiefs’ offense excelled against the Bengals, including a line with new parts.
“Those guys come in and they’re confident,” Mahomes said. “They trust in what they know. They’ve gotten those reps. It gives me confidence in them knowing they know what going on.”
Approaching this week’s game against the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs have more offensive line decisions to make. Devey is out, placed on injured reserve after tearing a right pectoral muscle. He’ll undergo surgery on Thursday.
Amazingly, the injury occurred in the first quarter and Devey played all 70 offensive snaps of the game.
“I actually saw when he did it,” Mahomes said. “I looked at him and asked, ‘Are you good?” He said he was good to go. He played the whole game and fought his tail off and played a real good game basically with one arm.”
Devey was replacing Mitch Morse, who suffered a concussion a week earlier against the Patriots. Morse hasn’t practiced since then.
The Chiefs’ top option at center appears to be Cam Erving, who has started every game at left guard but took more than 600 snaps at center for the Cleveland Browns in 2016.
Jeff Allen, who started his career with the Chiefs and was reacquired last week after spending the previous two years with Houston, could be moved from his guard position. He played two snaps against the Bengals.
The Chiefs have two others on the roster with experience at center. Austin Reiter has taken NFL snaps at the position, and Jimmy Murray, elevated from the practice squad this week, was the center at Holy Cross for the past three seasons.
If the call goes to Erving, the Chiefs will be looking for a replacement at guard, and that could be Allen. Whatever happens, coach Andy Reid said he has faith in his personnel and the moves by general manager Brett Veach, such as bringing in Allen and Reiter this season.
“We don’t get concerned about that,” Reid said. “If you can go, you go. If you can’t, you can’t.”
The Chiefs went through a similar scenario in 2017, losing offensive linemen Morse and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif for extended periods of time. They have experience at this.
“I wish we didn’t,” Schwartz said.
A year ago, as injuries mounted along the offensive line, the Chiefs’ fortunes turned for the worse. In 2018, they’ve only played one game with multiple offensive line positions manned by those who didn’t begin the season as starters. But the result could not have been more encouraging.