Why Kansas City Chiefs' offensive line depth could decide Super Bowl

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Mike Remmers and Nick Allegretti began the season for the Kansas City Chiefs as backups. Stefen Wisniewski was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Andrew Wylie was a starter for the Chiefs, but at right guard.

They will all start for the Chiefs on the offensive line in Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Wylie at right tackle instead. The Chiefs, who had two linemen opt out for the season shortly before the start of training camp and lost three of their original starters to injuries along the way, have had to dig deep into their line depth chart.

And yet Kansas City still won 16 games on the way to the Super Bowl. The Chiefs did it by patching together an offensive line.

"They're talented guys," coach Andy Reid said. "In some cases we've had some young ones step in ... and we've had some older guys step in, and so that combination has been able to get us through some games here."

How well the Chiefs' line plays in the Super Bowl could go a long way toward determining the game's outcome. The Bucs had 48 sacks during the regular season, which was tied for fourth in the league.

In the playoffs, Tampa Bay has seven sacks and has pressured opponents into five interceptions in three games.

"You have to have trust in those guys up front," quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "They work their tail off just like everybody else and so I feel like they've done a great job all year of going up against a lot of good defensive fronts. For me, I've just got to get the ball out of my hand whatever way possible and not let those guys kind of destroy the game."

Starting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and rookie Lucas Niang, who would have been a candidate to play at either guard or tackle, opted out shortly before the start of Chiefs' training camp because of concerns about COVID-19.

The Chiefs lost guard Kelechi Osemele and tackle Mitchell Schwartz for the season with injuries early in the year. Tackle Eric Fisher's season ended during the AFC Championship Game victory over the Buffalo Bills because of a torn Achilles tendon.

Only center Austin Reiter remains from the Week 1 starting lineup in his original position. And even Reiter missed three starts in the middle of the season because of a sore knee.

What's remarkable is the Chiefs were able to withstand the opt-outs and the injuries without putting many resources into their offensive line. Niang -- taken in the third round of the 2020 draft -- is the first offensive lineman the Chiefs have drafted above the fourth round since 2015.

Reiter joined the Chiefs off waivers in 2018. Wylie had been released by three teams before joining the Chiefs as a free agent in 2017. Allegretti was a seventh-round draft pick in 2019. Remmers played nine NFL seasons for six different teams and joined the Chiefs this year on the veteran minimum salary. Wisniewski started for the Chiefs in last year's Super Bowl but, after being released by the Steelers, was available for any team to sign. He returned to the Chiefs initially as a member of their practice squad.

Remmers has perhaps been the Chiefs' most valuable lineman. He started games this season at left guard and right tackle. He shifted to left tackle against the Bills after Fisher left the lineup. He has played well at every spot and exceeded the Chiefs' expectations.

"I knew him by reputation," offensive line coach Andy Heck said. "I had seen him on tape where he's been a number of places, but he's played a lot of football and a lot of different positions.

"I would say if there was something I learned, I kind of expected, sight unseen, a veteran guy, good ability, versatile, can play multiple positions and a great locker room guy. That's what I expected. He's exceeded those expectations for me, certainly for this organization. He's shown that same versatility, he's shown the same productivity as well as being a world-class guy, professional. He's tremendous, and, like I said, that's kind of what I thought we'd be getting. He's been that and more."

Remmers' type of versatility has been essential in a season with so many injuries. Wylie has started in two positions this season.

The Chiefs didn't come by their versatility by luck. Heck frequently shuffles players into different line positions at practice, particularly in training camp, so they get some experience in different spots.

"We had a couple of guys step in and play spots that they hadn't really practiced that particular week," Heck said. "But that said, they had practiced making those sorts of blocks all through training camp, all through the spring, albeit virtually this year. The point being, we feel comfortable that if guys are going in, whether they're reaching right, reaching left, playing a right-handed stance or a left-handed stance, it doesn't really matter. These guys have done the stuff before, and so we don't skip a beat."

Allegretti is the type of player the Chiefs need to develop because they don't spend many of their resources on the offensive line. He moved into the lineup at left guard because of an injury in Week 6.

He's been there ever since and has played well enough that he might be a starter for the Chiefs next season and beyond. He developed despite little playing time since the 2019 preseason.

"The [defensive] line that we have here, an incredibly talented group, so being able go up against them day in and day out at practice and competing with them [helped with development]," Allegretti said. "Chris [Jones] is an incredible player and Derrick Nnadi is an incredible player, so being able to get those reps against them and slowly getting to have some success or learn some things from them has been huge.

"Then, just following the older guys. They taught me how to prepare physically and mentally for games. So, I feel good about the way that I learned how to prepare."