The running game came seemingly easy for the Chiefs early on. Kareem Hunt ran with determination and piled up the numbers.
Hunt continues to churn hard, but he and the Chiefs’ running game haven’t been getting as far.
The offensive linemen say to put that responsibility on their shoulders.
“Obviously it hasn’t been going our way lately, not how we’ve wanted it to go,” said Zach Fulton, who has played both guard positions and center this season. “We just have to keep chopping away at it, and we will.”
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Injuries and lineup shuffling have been an issue. Center Mitch Morse suffered a foot injury in the second game and missed the next five, with Fulton taking over.
In the fourth week, guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif injured his knee and missed the next month. Cameron Erving, acquired just before the season from the Browns, started three games, and Fulton started the fourth.
In a 12-9 loss to the New York Giants last week, the Chiefs made a lineup change, with Fulton playing his third position — left guard — in place of Bryan Witzmann, who had started the first nine games.
Only tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz have lined up at the same position through all 10 games this season.
“That goes on each year, with some years better than others,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said of the line’s continuity. “The last few games for us, not just the line but everywhere on offense, we’re just trying to get it back and figure out where we’re at and what we need to do.”
A better running game tops the list. In the first five games, the Chiefs averaged 142.7 yards per game, and Hunt led the NFL in rushing. Over the next five, the figure has dropped to 81 yards.
In the first five games, Hunt had 18 runs of 10 yards or longer, and the Chiefs had 22. Since then, there have been 11 such plays, with Hunt accounting for six of them.
The Chiefs won those first five games and are just 1-4 since.
Again, Fulton said, put it on him and his linemates.
“We had it going early, it will go our way again,” Fulton said.
One player who hasn’t been part of the good times or bad this season is Parker Ehinger. The fourth-round pick in 2016 started four games last season, including three straight before tearing an ACL against the Indianapolis Colts.
Ehinger remained on the inactive list for the first four games this season and was active for the Chiefs game at Houston. He remained active for the next four games, but returned to the inactive list for games against the Cowboys and Giants.
“We’re not ignoring him,” coach Andy Reid said.
Ehinger said he’s ready to play.
“I’ve been ready to go this whole time,” Ehinger said. “I’m waiting for my name to be called, just being patient. I don’t know how it’s going to go.
“I’m keeping my head down, working hard every day in practice and bringing an attitude and mind-set as if I’m playing.”
Ehinger played more games at tackle than guard in college at Cincinnati, and he’s taken practice snaps at tackle with the Chiefs.
“Just because we need guys to fill in on the second team,” Ehinger said. “But I feel comfortable at any position. I’ll do whatever they need me to do.”