Football, Sports

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif proves his value to the emergent Chiefs

Unpredictability has been a motif in Kansas City Chiefs guard—and former McGill Redman—Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s career. Picked in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Duvernay-Tardif became the only McGill alumnus to earn a spot on an NFL roster. In his offseasons, he is working toward a medical degree at McGill—an unprecedented, nigh-impossible feat for an NFL player. After failing to see regular-season action in his rookie season, the now 26 year-old’s professional football prospects were questionable at best. He proved ready when called upon, starting in 13 of 16 games after injuries cleared his path to playing time.

Duvernay-Tardif took a large step in 2016, transitioning into a reliable offensive lineman who would start each game he was healthy enough to play in. During the ensuing offseason, the Chiefs rewarded him with a five-year, US $41.25 million contract, making him the 11th highest-paid guard in football.

It would’ve been safe to assume—as that contract would indicate—that the 321-pound med student would plateau after his third season: NFL players usually experience just one notable uptick in production across their careers, which almost always occurs in their first three seasons. Again, Duvernay-Tardif has surprised the football world, as the start to his fourth season suggests he has made his third major NFL progression.

In just a few games, “LDT” has displayed an upgraded skill set. He’s cleaned up his pass blocking technique, which allows him to effectively channel his inherently dominant power and athleticism. Meanwhile, he’s vastly improved his football intelligence while run blocking. Both traits were at full display in his Week 2 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, where Duvernay-Tardif easily got the best of Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox, one of the league’s best defensive linemen. Evidently, he has been similarly effective in his other games.

Duvernay-Tardif’s contribution has helped the Kansas City offensive line reach new heights in 2017. Analysts at Football Outsiders rank the unit first in the league at run blocking, laughably far ahead of the rest of the pack. Duvernay-Tardif is arguably the best member of the rock-solid offensive line group, playing a leading role in clearing gaping holes for rookie-sensation Kareem Hunt to run through.

This development up front has catalyzed a greater breakthrough for the entire team. In years past, the Chiefs have struggled to put points on the board, relying instead on their defence to shut down the opposition. Heading into 2017, the Chiefs were a top candidate for regression, with an aging defensive line and another disappointing offensive performance appearing imminent. However, with a restored running game, the Kansas City offence has opened up and scored points at an impressive clip. Coupled with a still-strong defensive unit, the Chiefs are reaching new heights in 2017. Better yet, the good times shouldn’t be coming to an end soon.

Signed to a long-term contract that looks to be increasingly favourable to the Chiefs with every game he plays, Duvernay-Tardif is a well-suited, lasting match with Kansas City. On an offence that should continue to rise, he will stop pass rushers in their tracks and create opportunities for Hunt for years to come. In the offseason, the Chiefs should continue to be flexible with his ultimate goal of becoming a doctor. Perhaps what makes the Chiefs the best fit for LDT, however, is that, like him, they carry their own unpredictability: After the football world largely left them for dead in 2017, the Chiefs—with the McGill man’s help—have become a member of the NFL’s elite.

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