Notebook: Chiefs offensive line remains fluid after second preseason contest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Don’t expect starting left tackle Eric Fisher (ankle) and projected starting right tackle Jeff Allen (knee) to return to the practice field Monday when the Chiefs begin preparations for the third preseason game.

“I think it would be a stretch,” coach Andy Reid said during Saturday’s media conference call.

Aug. 21, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs offensive lineman Paul Fanaika (74) warms up before the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Aug. 21, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs offensive lineman Paul Fanaika (74) warms up before the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Fisher and Allen, of course, did not play in Friday night’s contest against the Seattle Seahawks. And the Chiefs started Donald Stephenson at left tackle, Ben Grubbs at left guard, rookie Mitch Morse at center, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif at right guard and Paul Fanaika at right tackle.

The unit got off to a rough start, especially Fanaika, who cracked the first-team unit on the final day of training camp and played right tackle for the first time since college.

But Reid saw positives out of Fanaika’s performance.

“I thought he held his own,” Reid said. “There were a couple hiccups there, but for just doing it for a couple days, I thought he did a nice job.”

Duvernay-Tardif was inserted with the starters in the final days of camp, and his memorable play came after colliding with running back Jamaal Charles in open space on a passing play, essentially tackling the star rusher.

“I know the screen play kind of looked weird,” Reid said, “but the whole thing was kind of weird by the position that the back had to come out on. But he did some nice things and then there are some things that he can improve on, which he will – he just needs snaps.”

Stephenson, who originally filled in for Allen, moved to left tackle after Fisher suffered a high-ankle sprain, while Morse took over at center midway through training camp.

The offensive line remains in flux pending the return of Fisher and Allen, but Reid didn’t appear discouraged by the current unit’s performance.

“With the exception of probably three or four plays there,” Reid said, “I thought they did a decent job.”

Either way, expect an evaluation to continue on the current personnel on the roster as the Chiefs look to eventually designate a starting offensive line.

“We’re doing that,” Reid said. “That’s what we’ve got here and that’s what we’re doing and so we think we’ve got some good, young talent. In some cases, it’s just a matter of reps, and then there’s enough good there where you felt like with some more playing time, they could be a good solid unit. You also have a couple injuries that will be coming back to you, so that’s a good thing too.”

FORD SHINES BEFORE INJURY

Reid said outside linebacker Dee Ford, who suffered a fractured rib Friday night, started the preseason contest in place of Tamba Hali to give the team an idea how the second-year pro would handle extended playing time.

Ford showed he could handle the load, playing on 27 snaps and recording three tackles (one solo) before Seahawks running back Christine Michael leveled Ford with a devastating block late in the second quarter.

“He learned a crucial lesson, though,” Reid said of Ford. “If you get a running back offset there in the pass rush, you don’t want to expose those ribs, so he took quite a shot there. But he bounced up and got himself back and we got him off the field there. But, that’s a good lesson to learn on how to pass rush in this league. Those backs can put a wallop on you if you expose yourself.”

Ford did enough to impress, especially against the run where he crashed down from the outside and stopped Michael for no gain, before suffering the rib injury.

“I really thought overall, he did a good job,” Reid said. “He made plays. Actually, before the play he got hurt he had a nice play and made a nice tackle. I thought he had pressure on the quarterback. He still kept him in the pocket, which you really worry about with that quarterback, you don’t want to let him outside the pocket. So, for the most part he kept him in the pocket and there was pressure. In the run game, I thought he held his own in the run game.”

CONLEY’S PUNT RETURN

Reid confirmed rookie wide receiver Chris Conley’s punt return 2 yards deep in the end zone late in the fourth quarter was by design. Conley was able to get out the end zone before being brought down at the 3-yard line.

“We wanted him to return it, really, at all costs, even though it was at that period of the game,” Reid said. “So he kind of did what he was told to do there.”

Conley previously talked to ChiefsDigest.com about that play and why he returned an earlier kickoff 9 yards deep in the end zone.

INJURY UPDATES

Reid didn’t have updates on Ford, outside linebacker Dezman Moses (hamstring) and inside linebacker James-Michael Johnson (calf).

The trio suffered their respective injuries during Friday night’s 14-13 win against the Seahawks.

“We’ll get that to you later,” Reid said of injury updates. “So, it’d be the same as I mentioned last night.”

In addition to Fisher and Allen, the following did not play Friday night: Offensive linemen Tavon Rooks (shortness of breath) and Garrett Frye (knee); quarterback Tyler Bray (knee); tight end Demetrius Harris (foot); wide receivers Junior Hemingway (hip) and De’Anthony Thomas (shin); linebackers Justin March (knee) and Josh Mauga (heel); safety Sanders Commings (knee); and defensive tackle Dontari Poe (back).

The Chiefs host the Tennessee Titans on Friday, Aug. 28 at Arrowhead Stadium.

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Herbie Teope is the lead beat writer and reporter for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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