Monday, April 05, 2021

The GMKC: Chiefs sign Austin Blythe


By Caleb James

April 2, 2021

The Chiefs continued to overhaul their offensive line this week by signing former Los Angeles Rams Center Austin Blythe.

In his first press conference of the offseason, Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach said the offensive line would be a big focus of the offseason. Veach is a man of his word as the team signed center, Austin Blythe this week, the third new linemen they added to the roster this season. It is now highly likely the team will have five new starters at every position across the line, which is nearly unheard of in the NFL.

Blythe is an experienced veteran who has played in a Super Bowl and been an above-average player for the Rams. 

Physicality is the name of Blythe’s game, and he uses it to his own advantage. He is a little undersized at 6-foot-3 and only 298 pounds, but he is adequately athletic for the position. He is a high IQ football player. It is easy on tape to see him make his line calls and pick out blitzes, but he also has in play IQ, like the play below displays.

When he can win the hand fight battle and lock on to a defender it’s hard to get past him. He has some powerful clamps when he gets locked up on a defender and usually plays with good leverage. Blythe was a three-time state champion wrestler as a high schooler in Iowa, so he understands leverage, as well as how momentum works when he battling in the trenches.

Blythe should be an upgrade over Austin Reiter in the run game. He is more athletic, stronger at the point of attack, and overall more physical. I was really impressed with the way he works up to the second level in zone-blocking plays. He has great explosion off the snap, a good first step, and he works good angles. He turns these blocks into a reach block on the run, which is very hard to do.

So is Blythe better than Reiter in pass protection. It can be hard to tell at times, but he is better in the areas that Austin Reiter struggled in. He is a strong point of attack linemen, gets movement off the ball, and is in general more physical. Reiter may seem to be the better pass protector, but very rarely in the Chiefs offensive scheme was Reiter left alone to block one one one.

The way teams played the Rams this past season their plan was to send pressure early and often to slow down their run game, which would, in turn, slow down the play-action game that they relied on. That will not be the case in Kansas City. Teams were much more reluctant to pressure Patrick Mahomes in 2020 and found more success rushing only four and dropping up to seven in coverage. This leaves one on one blocks upfront and a need for physicality.

This move came down to the Chiefs wanting an established player at the position who could start for a year but also allows them the flexibility to continue to search for a long-term solution at the position. If Blythe plays up the flashes’ he has shown the past few seasons it could be him. This is very much a one-year prove-it deal.

Blythe will be 29 by the end of next season, meaning he has a chance to make one more big contract in his NFL career. If he plays well in 2021 he will position himself to make as much money as possible to wind down his career. It’s a low-risk high reward signing by the Chiefs and should help them improve upfront.

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