In two different stages of their careers, both offensive linemen are focused on particular aspects of their game.
Throughout the offseason, there’s been one starting offensive position that’s been the hardest to nail down for the Kansas City Chiefs: right guard. In the 2019 championship campaign, veteran Laurent Duvernay-Tardif locked down that spot — but opted out of the 2020 season, leaving veteran Andrew Wylie to fill in for the vast majority of the season.
Wylie, however, is now zoning in on the tackle position — running with both the second and first team at right tackle.
“Last year was a real eye-opener, getting playing time at tackle in a couple games there.” Wylie told reporters after Sunday’s practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. “This offseason, I was able to fine-tune; last year, I felt like a guard playing tackle, and this year I feel like a tackle. This offseason, OTAs and camp [are] going extremely well. We’ve come a long way.”
Wylie started at right tackle for both a Week 15 game against the New Orleans Saints and Super Bowl LV. For someone who had been practicing a different position for the entire season, he held up as well as anyone could have expected. But this offseason, tackle has been where he’s taking a lot of his snaps.
“During the season last year, all my reps were guard reps — cause I was playing guard,” Wylie explained. “For that Saints game, I had a few days. For the Super Bowl, I got a week and a half or so. Now with all this time and all these reps I’ve been taking at tackle, I feel more like a tackle.”
One reason Wylie is likely making an official move to the edge of the line is rookie Trey Smith — who has taken every first-team snap at right guard since the first practice of training camp. He’s excited Chiefs fans with plenty of highlight-reel clips from practice — including holding up well against Chris Jones in individual drills.
As good as Smith has looked, he’s still a rookie with plenty to learn. But however much hype he receives from the public, he still understands he’s got a long way to go. When he spoke to reporters on Sunday, he shared a specific detail on which he’s been focused.
“With the hand placement, just getting better with it,” Smith began. “Just placing both hands and being aggressively in control of everything. My main thing is being in control of everything when I play; mentally going through my reps and being ready for the call when it’s made.”
At the collegiate level — in the SEC — Smith played as close to NFL competition as you can get. He started three seasons against plenty of eventual and future NFL prospects — but in his first professional experience, he’s still noticed the uptick of play. And he is cognizant of a smaller margin for error.
“Guys in the league are a lot stronger than college,” Smith pointed out. “Just understanding that everything you do as an offensive lineman is so small, so detailed, so technical that one overstep of the foot, one hand that didn’t replace properly, you can end up on your butt. Just understanding the different nuances — and watching film with Coach (Andy) Heck and as a group.”
Smith has the right mindset for the offensive line. He’s not only intelligent but selfless— which is nearly a requirement to be a great guard. He’s eager to contribute to the team’s strong reputation on offense.
“Right now, I’m just so locked in on doing my assignment and just finishing people the right way.” Smith assured his listeners. “I want the team to be successful [and] this offense to continue to be dominant and successful.”
Wylie has that trait in common with Smith — and Wylie’s move to tackle proves it: he plays where the organization believes he is needed.
“I welcome everything,” Wylie declared. “I welcome all reps on both sides of the center. Wherever Coach (Andy) Heck, (general manager) Brett Veach, (head coach) Andy Reid want to put me, I’ll play there.”
Wylie is one of the veterans of the group. He’s been through the process of training camp and preseason a number of times — but the rookies haven’t. As the excitement has built for every first-year offensive lineman, Wylie’s just as ready as anyone to see it in a live-action scenario.
“He doesn’t look like a rookie,” Wylie said of Lucas Niang. “Lucas has come a long way; you can tell he spent a lot of time getting his body and mind right during last season when he had that time. Creed (Humphrey) is a force there in the middle; he’s very good. Trey, too. Our rookies are doing a very good job this camp and we’re excited to see them in the preseason game.”
They have less than a week until that first game action. On Saturday, the Chiefs will face the San Francisco 49ers on the road. Even with so many things to watch, the performance of both the rookies and the veterans on the offensive line will likely attract the most attention.