Long returned from a season of retirement to join the Chiefs this offseason. He had been the starter at right guard since OTAs began just a few weeks ago and looked to earn the starting job heading into the season. Part of the excitement surrounding his return was his health as nagging injuries hampered his career with the Chicago Bears. In his final two seasons in the windy city, he appeared in just 12 games.
Now, with Long sidelined again, the Chiefs will be tasked with finding a replacement on the roster for the remainder of offseason training and perhaps to start the regular season. Thankfully, the team invested a ton of resources on the offensive line and the right guard position might be the deepest spot in terms of players capable of playing it.
Below you’ll find a quick look at several of the options who can fill in for Long while he’s injured in no particular order:
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Duvernay-Tardif is one of the few players with starting experience in Kansas City at the right guard position. The downside here is that Duvernay-Tardif, like Kyle Long, didn’t play football last season. He opted out of the 2020 NFL season to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in his native Canada. Duvernay-Tardif also hasn’t been present for OTA practices, so it’s tough to say how the team would feel about throwing him into the mix when they haven’t seen him in action since Super Bowl LIV. Duvernay-Tardif is expected to be present for mandatory minicamp next week, so that’ll be the first time we’ve seen him do anything football-related in over a year.
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Smith is one of the early favorites for the steal of the 2021 NFL draft. Some had him projected as a Day 1 or Day 2 draft pick and he fell all the way to the sixth-round, presumably due to health issues when he was at Tennesse. He’s healthy now and he’s already made an impression on the coaching staff. “I do think that Trey (Smith) has starting guard in his future,” Chiefs OL Coach Andy Heck told reporters on June 3rd. “How fast that will come, that’ll be difficult to predict. He has all the physical and mental tools that you look for and he loves football. I mean that’s an indispensable quality. He loves football, he loves to compete and he’s an extremely physical person. These things jump out at you when you watch tape of him. Now how fast can he learn our system, learn our techniques, really kind of quiet things down in there at that guard position. We’ll see, but he’s certainly off to a good start and working very hard at it.” With the Chiefs down a starting guard, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Smith’s timeline for becoming a starting guard was accelerated.
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Wylie is the other player with starting right guard experience for the Chiefs. Fans probably wouldn’t be too keen on this option, but Wylie has started over 20 games at the right guard spot for Kansas City in his four-year career with the team. He did a fine job on the inside last season before being forced into playing right tackle during Super Bowl LV. I’d be surprised if Wylie was the first option at right guard, but it’d also make some sense if he was the player they plugged in while Long is sidelined.
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Allegretti appeared in all 16 games for the Chiefs last season and made nine starts at the left guard position. He filled in for Kelechi Osemele as soon as the injuries began to mount on the offensive line and remained at left guard out of necessity. I think his skillset has always been better suited for the right side of the line, so this could be an opportunity for him to get a crack at that role.
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Blythe is one of the more underrated options at right guard for Kansas City. He started 31 games at right guard for the Los Angeles Rams from the 2018-2019 seasons before switching to center in 2020. His first season starting at right guard, back in 2018 was probably his best season as a professional. He seems to be taking repetitions as the second-team center right now for Kansas City, but I would not be surprised in the slightest if he’s given some repetitions at right guard during the course of training camp.
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I think the Chiefs really want Niang focusing on the tackle position, but it’s worth noting that Brett Veach said last season that he has the flexibility to play inside. Had Niang not opted out in 2020, he probably would have had an opportunity to compete for the right guard job. This year, if Niang is playing right guard, well, it probably means that things have gone horribly wrong on the injury front.
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Another unlikely, but intriguing option is Durant. He started the Week 17 exhibition game against the Los Angeles Chargers at the right guard position and showed some promise there. We haven’t heard much about his development this offseason, but he’s someone that the Chiefs stashed on the 53-man roster in 2020. If he’s shown some growth and improvement it’s possible that he could see some action at right guard.