With Branden Albert more than likely leaving next season via free agency I took particular interest in Donald Stephenson's performance this week seeing as he is a possible candidate to replace Albert next season. I realize that Fisher is likely the guy that goes to the left but the fact that they played Stephenson there in Alberts absence at least gives us a peek into what our future LT could possibly be. Playing in horrible weather against one of the better OLB tandems in the NFL seems like fair conditions to breakdown a first time starters play right? Let's see what you got big guy.
1st and 10 RUN: Stephenson takes Brian Orakpo to the sideline, as did the rest of the line with their assignments. A lot of this is Jamaal Charles throwing them off balance though. Charles takes a few steps left to get them going in that direction then just cuts it right and sends the defense into a wall of blockers. gain of 8.
2nd and 2 PASS: Stephenson pass blocking now. He respects the hell out of Orakpo and you can see it. Right off the snap Stephenson is quick to get back.
It looks like Orakpo get stunned for a little bit by Charles running an out right across of his face. End result? Stephenson only has to engage Orakpo for a split second before Alex Smith guns it to McGrath for a first down.
1st and 10 PASS: Washington sends a zone blitz, its a horrible one really. Orakpo takes a quick step towards Stephenson and drops into coverage. Ultimately it ends up being four Washington rushers against five Chiefs O linemen. Stephenson never has to make contact and Alex Smith gets to take his time and deliver a strike down field to Bowe for 17 yards.
1st and 10 RUN: Oooh that was creative. The coaching staff must trust Sean McGrath's blocking because they pulled Stephenson out left and sent McGrath after London Fletcher. What ends up happening is Orakpo is able to contain the outside but Stephenson takes him so far out of the play that Charles is able to cut up field and gain a few more off of a chip on Fletcher thrown by McGrath. Charles doesn't get touched until he's in the secondary, gain of 13.
1st and 10 RUN: They try basically the same play this time, Stephenson tries to take Orakpo out of the play again but to no avail, he only manages a shove that doesn't do enough for Charles. The delay gives enough time to Ryan Kerrigan to come from the backside and close the cutback lane. No gain.
2nd and 10 PASS: Jamaal Charles stays in for pass pro and all but stares down Stephenson the whole play, either Charles doesn't trust him or a coach told him to look out for him. Stepehenson does a good enough job containing Orakpo but at the smallest sign of trouble Charles jets over to double. This gives Smith enough time to jet one to Bowe who proceeds to drop it. No gain.
3rd and 10 PASS: maybe the last play was meant to set up this one. Charles goes out for what looks like a double team on Orakpo then just jets out to the flat leaving him wide open. Stephenson gets away with a hold here as Orakpo gets up field lightning quick. Smith has more than enough time to get it out to Charles but just throws out of reach. No Gain.
4th and 10 FIELD GOAL.
Drive Summary: Has Stephenson shown anything yet? He's done everything that was asked of him so far outside of one play (play 5) even if they were relatively simple assignments. Can't complain.
1st and 10 PASS: Quick bubble screen to McCluster. No involvement on Stephenson's part. Puts the Chiefs within 5 yards of the endzone
2nd and 1 RUN: Rushing play out of the shotgun goes straight at Stephenson. Stephenson is one on one with Orakpo who is playing the outside run hard. Charles cuts it up field into a wall of Redskins defenders. Orakpo tries to get up field but Stephenson aint having that. Still, loss of two on the play.
3rd and 3 RUN: Triple option here, Alex Smith opts out of a reverse to McCluster and a sprint to Charles and decides he's running the ball with Charles as a lead blocker. The play is going away from Stephenson who is tasked with picking up the ILB from the backside.
Didn't expect Stephenson to be that fast, he's on his man by the time the play is revealed. It doesn't matter though, his block is so far away from the end of the play that he could have stood gangster and the result would be the same. Gain of 2.
4th and 1 RUN: FINALLY! Reid goes for it on 4th and 1. Decent play by Stephenson here. He throws a shoulder at Orakpo long enough for Charles to get by him, then gets to the second level and hits the linebacker head on. The result? Orakpo is forced to hit Charles from a weak angle, and Stephenson's second block allows Charles to lunge forward uninterrupted for the first. Was this play all Stephenson and Charles? I think so. Gain of 2
1st and Goal RUN: The run is away from Stephenson. The field is too short for any sort of backside blocking to matter so he just gives Orakpo a shove. Charles gets in over Schwartz and Fisher (who I might add are playing VERY well so far in this game) for a TD!!
Drive Summary: Still hard to say anything of here. Most of the plays went away from Stephenson but in this drive he was able to showcase some surprising speed. Play 4 might be his best play of the game, when he was given a chance to shine he did. Again, Stephenson has done everything asked of him.
1st and 10 RUN: Sprint right, right at Stephenson and #notrusselwilson throws a beautiful block. Orakpo gets a break and draws Jeff Allen on the pull while Stephenson gets to the second level and just takes the ILB to the sidelines "The Blind Side" style.
I realize it's hard to say Stephenson threw a good block here with all the other linemen around him, but I want to note that Stephenson DROVE his guy that far, a lot of the guys around him are reacting to Charles following Stephenson, you can see everyone but Stephenson's man have an arm or shoulder free. Gain of 5.
2nd and 5 PASS: Another bubble screen to McCluster and away from Stephenson. Not quite as successful this time. Loss of 1.
3rd and 6 PASS: Hm. On the one hand Stephenson gave Smith enough time to throw a strike down field to Bowe, on the other hand if Smith probably had 2 seconds more before being obliterated by Orakpo. Stephenson walls off a bull rush by Orakpo, but then Orakpo turns it in and has an express lane to Alex Smith, whose already throwing the ball by then. It was a quick route so I guess it's a win? Either way TD!!
Drive Summary: First play that worries me comes near the end of the first. Says something right? Stephenson is proving to be a very capable run blocker but his pass blocking may be something to look out for.
First and 10 RUN: Another run, another beautiful play by Allen. The guy has a great sense for timing on run plays. He jams the DE into Jeff Allen then gets to the second level to throw a block on London Fletcher. Both players are non factors in the play and Charles picks up A solid 4 yards.
2nd and 6 RUN: Toss away from Stephenson picks up a first down in the redzone. I will give recognition to the fact that Stephenson took the DE out of the play rather than get up field to a LB because the DE posed the most immediate threat. Smart move or designed? Either way Stephenson makes as much of an impact as he possibly could.
1st and Goal RUN: Draw to Charles. Stephenson doesn't have to do much here. Orakpo bites the pass so hard it's basically just a shove to keep him from catching up to Charles from behind. Charles picks up maybe two.
2nd and Goal PASS: They leave Stephenson out on an island on this one. It's a quick throw so Stephenson throws a cut block on Orakpo which fails miserably, but still gets in the way long enough to allow Smith to get Charles a swing screen to the right. TD!! I just want to say holy crap Fisher can move man! He gets all the way out to the sideline to spring Charles for the TD.
Drive Summary: I'm starting to worry about Stephenson's pass protection abilities. I realize he's going up against Brian Orakpo but if we have to throw down field I'm almost sure he gives up a pressure once or twice per drive. When it's all said and done, he hasn't given up any pressures and his pass pro may be a result of the types of plays being called. If it's a three step drop I suppose there is little reason to risk a holding call on a second effort. All of that said his run blocking has been near perfect so far.
1st and 10 RUN: Stephenson drives the DE five yards down field with Charles at his back. Stephenson sees a Safety in fron of him and releases on the DE to attack the Safety and spring Charles for the big play, problem is the DE ends up catching Charles shortly after being released. Can't fault the big man for trying. Gain of 5.
2nd and 5 PASS: The play action draws the attention of the defense and Stephen hops into a traffic jam of players to help. Easy throw for Smith down field to Hemmingway. First down on an 11 yard gain.
1st and 10 RUN: Sprint right, Stephenson doesn't get to the DE in time and the cut back lane for Charles is shut down by Stephenson's man. Hard to complain about a 5 yard gain.
2nd and 5 PASS: Another quick bubble pass to McCluster but this time to Stephenson's side. Stephenson draws the DE in pass protection and does a nice job of keeping him out of the passing lane. Gain of 10.
1st and 10 PASS: Quick pass to Donnie Avery on a slant. Stepehenson does a great job at sealing off the DE for all of two seconds. 7 yard gain
2nd and 3 RUN: Stephenson obliterates Orakpo on this one, it seems whenever Stephenson gets square on to a defender in run blocking that guy is going to be removed from the play. Check out how far Stephenson has driven his man out of the play.
3rd and 6 PASS: Stephenson draws Orakpo one on one as the Redskins go jailhouse blitz on this one. No real contact but Stephenson never gives Orakpo a lane to work with and mirrors him until Smith is forced to throw it away due to pressure up the gut. Incomplete pass.
4th and 6 POOCH PUNT: The least exciting trick play in football.
Drive Summary: Same old story, Stephenson is excellent in run blocking. It looks like he's setlling in to pass protection though, which is nice.
Half Summary: I like what I see out of Stephenson, he suits this offense well, he's good run blocking and he's good enough in pass protection to allow for those dink and dunk passes Andy likes to call. What I want to see is how Stephenson does when the Chiefs are forced to use 6 and 7 step drops to get down field. Can he manage protection long enough? None of the pass pro assignments he was given required a second effort so it's hard to tell, but it looks like a pass rusher like Justin Houston could give him a lot of trouble with the outside inside move.
It's way to early for a final judgement on his game and his arrow is definitely pointing up but as of right now I still want to see Branden Albert back next year to play that LT spot. It's nice that Stephenson committed zero penalties but there are a few kinks in his game I'd like to see ironed out before I put a whole season in his hands.
I think I'll stop here, the whole second half is conservative football played against ateam that clearly doesn't want to be there. Thanks for stopping by and GO CHIEFS!