With the news of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opting out of the 2020 season to help save lives and fight the spread of COVID-19 as a doctor, the Chiefs were put in a predicament. They fully support his decision to help others, as most of us do, but this also left the Chiefs without their starting right guard for the season. The Chiefs added Mike Remmers in April and have Andrew Wylie on staff with right guard experience, but this would take away from their depth if both players were forced into starting roles with the team. The Chiefs clearly didn’t like the idea of going into the season with a lack of depth on the interior, given that this was and will continue to be a difficult offseason and season for teams, they brought in a veteran that’s played the last seven years of his career at left guard in Kelechi Osemele.
This name might seem familiar to you and that’s due to the fact that he was an Oakland Raider for three seasons, two of which he made the Pro Bowl and he was an All-Pro in 2016. He’s on the younger side of being a seasoned veteran at 31 years old while coming off of a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He had surgery last season after a dispute with the New York Jets who told him to play through the pain and have surgery in the offseason, which you can see as being a little unreasonable. After being cut by the Jets due to the dispute, he had his surgery and has been recovering since last November. He and his agent said he’s 100% and ready to go this season which allowed the Chiefs and Osemele to agree on a deal. In my opinion, this allows the Chiefs to start Wylie and right guard where he played great in relief of LDT in 2018 and slide Osemele in at left guard where he has played the majority of his career. Osemele brings physicality to the guard position that we haven’t seen much recently under Reid.
Osemele is what you’d call a finisher when he gets the opportunity, he likes to take defenders to the ground, finishing the play. When he gets engaged his hands are like vices, he doesn’t let go easily and he’s all about driving the guy on the angle he found him. The defender might be able to get some wiggle here and there, but that doesn’t stop Osemele from continuing to drive them wherever he can and eventually to the ground. He is a high effort blocker and it shows on his tape, which is as fun to write about as it is to watch.
As a big offensive line guy myself, Osemele is fun to watch because not only is he looking to put men into the dirt and punish them, he plays with a ton of effort whether he’s blocking down, double teaming, getting to the second level, or getting out on a screen. His hustle is contagious and having him on this offensive line is a huge upgrade for the left guard position just based on the effort you’ll see on a gamely basis. He may not be the most athletic guy, but he can still get out and move.
This is what I’m talking about when I mean effort, it doesn’t look like much from the big fella’, but he wants to get to the second level and get on a body. When he sees the linebacker is going to be his best opportunity to do so, he locks in and shoves him out of the way and keeps going after him. He’s the type of guy that is always looking for someone to hit and different ways to open up holes for running backs or keep the pocket clean. Keeping his head on a swivel and always looking for work is the kind of attitude that will keep you around as an offensive lineman. It’s interesting to me that he was a free agent so long into the offseason, but I have to assume it’s due to the injury and teams not being able to bring him in for a physical. At full strength, this is a guy that can help a lot of offensive lines in both run blocking and pass protection.
I will say that Osemele doesn’t play the position in pass protection with a ton of finesse and hand fighting. For the most part, he’s going to lock up his man and move his feet to stay with him. On the play seen above, he helps to the center first knocking the defensive tackle off balance and then slides over to take on the delayed blitz from the linebacker. He has his eyes on the linebacker the whole time, knowing that there was a chance he’d be coming on a blitz. He engages and even though he nearly hooks the blitzer with his outside arm, he overpowers the linebacker so much so that instead of turning him he collapses him and doesn’t get a penalty called. Osemele swallows up the linebacker and finishes him to the ground.
For a guard that isn’t overly athletic, I was impressed with his lateral movement in pass protection, he is able to help down with the center or tackle and get back to a rusher coming on the other side with enough time to allow his strength to make up the angle he has to take. He’s a powerful guy and having the ability to be the aggressor and not get bench pressed from defensive tackles is a big help when on an island with a strong defensive tackle. That aggressiveness can be a liability at times, though.
Being a more aggressive pass blocker can be a detriment to your style against quicker defenders if you aren’t careful. When in an aggressive set, Osemele attacks the tackle and that creates a larger A gap to his right. If he uses the attacking style too often, the defender can key on it and swim around him when he lunges at them, as seen in the clip above. He was able to keep a hold of the tackle, grabbing him a bit and then running into a fellow teammate, but Osemele needs to mix in aggressiveness with a more passive angle set as well to not give away what he’s doing all the time. The lunging isn’t terrible if you keep your feet under you properly, but if you displace too much weight out in front, you become a target for the swim move. His lateral agility helps in recovery and in another area the Chiefs offensive line has struggled with the past few seasons.
Stunts have given the Chiefs interior line fits over the years and veteran lineman are typically much better at seeing them coming because they’ve prepared for them longer and know what they are looking for. Osemele is a good stunt pick up guard because his head is always looking for work, he sees the stunter coming, ensures he passes off the tackle to the center and then takes the stunter where he wants to go, running him around the quarterback and allowing him to move up to safety. This is the kind of stuff I enjoy seeing from an interior offensive lineman, he’s got the experience and style to do this every week and help keep Mahomes protected. Watching him play against the Patriots in week three last season showed me everything I needed to know about his experience level, he knows what he’s doing.
We’ve seen some of the offensive linemen brought in in the last few seasons not be the “best” athletes at the position, something Reid has valued a lot because he pulls everyone at different times. As the Chiefs have gone to more zone blocking concepts, the need for offensive lineman to be good pullers lessens a bit and that helps Osemele. Not that he can’t pull and get through a hole to lead the way, but if you watch him above, it takes him a while to get going. As a puller, you want to get that inside foot out and down the line moving in the direction you’re pulling all in one motion. Osemele squares before he gets going, but you can then see what he does when he gets moving and that’s one hell of an upside to him pulling. He is a capable puller when he gets going, it’s just not the most efficient part of his game.
Osemele is going to be a welcomed addition to this offensive line and provide some strength that isn’t normally characteristic of what we’ve seen in the last few seasons as pass protection has become a bigger focal point. While Osemele is going to be a mover, assuming he’s fully healthy, he is a good pass-blocking guard as well, I expect he is going to be a starter to begin the season for the Chiefs. He brings too much value to let ride the bench if he’s ready to go. I’ve seen some speak of him being a possible Wisneiwski-type signing for the Chiefs, but I think that Osemele is going to be better than Wis was to end the season for the Chiefs in 2019. He has that edge that I think this offensive line could use and maybe it will rub off on guys like Fisher and Reiter.
I was impressed with Osemele’s film between 2018 and 2019, the three games that he played before he got hurt. The game against the Bills in 2019 was a real eye-opener, that’s an exceptionally good and coached defensive line and he was rock solid most of the game for the Jets. Osemele could end up paying off for the Chiefs in a big way, and could even stick around past 2020 if this works out. The former All-Pro is looking for a ring and a chance to show he’s fully healthy. What better place to do that then with the reigning Super Bowl Champs protecting the best quarterback in the NFL? There isn’t one; here’s one last clip of him just being a mauler and competitor in pass pro, I hope you enjoy it.