It's all change along the O-line for this season. Left tackle Branden Albert went to Miami during free agency, while guards Jon Asamoah (Atlanta) and Geoff Schwartz (New York Giants) weren't far behind.
It's Albert's defection that creates the biggest question along this front five. Namely, can 2013 top overall draft pick Eric Fisher improve in year two?
He was a disappointment as a rookie, often struggling out of position on the right side. Now Fisher gets a chance at his natural position, left tackle. That means he has to live up to his lofty draft billing.
It's an opportunity he is keen to take, per Vahe Gregorian of The Kansas City Star:
It’s almost like being right- or left-handed, surprisingly. One thing just feels more natural than the other, and I think a lot of tackles would tell you that …
Technique is huge in this league. When you play with technique, it’s just that much easier. And sometimes technique isn’t natural.
The Chiefs need Fisher up to speed for the new season. The AFC West is loaded with pass-rushers who can give left tackles fits.
The Broncos will unleash DeMarcus Ware, while Dwight Freeney is back for the Chargers. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders barely left a veteran pass-rusher on the market during free agency.
The Silver and Black added Antonio Smith, Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley via free agency, and drafted Khalil Mack, adding to a defense already featuring hidden gem Sio Moore.
But it won't all be about Fisher up front for the Chiefs. Center Rodney Hudson must also improve, per Bob Gretz of bobgretz.com:
He’s in the final season of his contract, playing for a coach and general manager that did not draft him. He played all 16 games last season as a starter at the pivot for the Chiefs, but was inconsistent. In the ’13 season he saw 1,035 snaps on offense, was penalized four times and gave up five sacks, plus another nine hits and hurries of quarterback Alex Smith. He was tied for second among all centers in sacks allowed.
Hudson may have a rookie starter on one side of him, in the form of sixth-round pick Zach Fulton. The first-year guard has made a very positive impression this offseason, putting himself in starting contention, according The Kansas City Star's Covitz.
If any of the new starters or struggling incumbents falter, depth is questionable. Veteran retreads Jeff Linkenbach, J'Marcus Webb and Ryan Harris were all signed this offseason, yet none inspire a great deal of confidence.
The success or failure of this group will determine if the Chiefs can build on some impressive offensive displays toward the end of last season or if the defense will be under greater pressure to carry the team.
The unit hardly made a great start by surrendering six sacks to the Cincinnati Bengals during the preseason opener. Up next are the Carolina Panthers, another team with strong pass-rush depth.
Performances along this O-line are sure to face intense scrutiny for the remainder of the preseason.
The main questions still plaguing the Chiefs mostly concern finding support for the strong nucleus of talent that is still in place. An offense with Bowe, running back Jamaal Charles and quarterback Alex Smith is certainly capable of producing points.
Meanwhile, the defense still boasts players such as Hali, Houston and Berry, stars most teams around the NFL would welcome in a second.
But these principle players can only do so much. They must be supported by complementary units like the O-line and secondary.
That support, along with some more creativity at the scheme level, can ensure a return to the playoffs.