clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Examining Donald Stephenson's brief appearance in the Chiefs-Broncos game

Let's take a peek at Donald Stephenson's 10 pass protection snaps in the Chiefs-Broncos game.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth over Andy Reid's recent statement that Ryan Harris is going to remain "the guy" at right tackle for the Chiefs.

There's some background here. Harris has struggled at times at right tackle this season (the offensive line as a whole has been somewhere between "really bad" and "they've been hired to assassinate Alex Smith" in pass pro). In the meantime, Donald Stephenson is a fan favorite who many were predicting would be a very solid right tackle for the Chiefs this season prior to his four game suspension.

A lot of fans assumed Stephenson would get his starting spot back as soon as he returned from suspension. Twelve games into the season, that clearly hasn't happened. In fact, Stephenson wasn't even sniffing the field outside of plays where he came in as an extra o-lineman.

Enter the Broncos game. On a night where Alex Smith was running for his life (or just getting killed) nearly every snap, Stephenson came in late in the game to replace Harris at right tackle. Chiefs fans everywhere rejoiced, and there was quite a bit of excited chatter that Stephenson was "back" and Harris was out.

A lot of fans assumed Stephenson would get his starting spot back as soon as he returned from suspension. 12 games into the season, that clearly hasn't happened.

Then Andy Reid calls Harris the guy, and everyone loses their minds in a white-hot fit of rage.

Me, I was more curious than anything else. Like most of you, I expected Stephenson to play well at right tackle for the Chiefs this season. I've always liked him as a player (dat kick slide) and have been confused as to why Harris remains in the starting lineup.

And since I go crazy if I leave questions like that unanswered, I had to go back and watch Stephenson's pass pro snaps against the Broncos (of which there were 10).

I chronicled my journey on Twitter. So those lucky 1,188 of you who already follow me, feel free to skip ahead to the "conclusions" section, as we won't be covering any new territory in the snap-by-snap analysis. Seriously, I'm literally just going to copy-and-paste.

For all the rest of you...

The Snaps

Snap 1: Von Miller just runs right around Stephenson for the sack.

Snap 2: Miller beats him outside again, but this time Stephenson holds so he doesn't get beat. No call, no harm. Pretty tame hold.

Snap 3: Holds Miller off well; though it's a quick throw, Stephenson had him for longer if necessary.

Snaps 4 and 5: Nice job on both, one against Miller one against 56.

(OK, I lied, I'm going to add something. I could be wrong about the whole "56" thing. That could've just been Von and I saw it wrong. Six and eight look a lot alike, you know?)

Snap 6: Fantastic in that it is SUCH a blatant hold. Made me feel like I was watching someone block Tamba Hali. No call, no harm (this was the big gain to Avery that got, you know, fumbled. I hate everything. Seriously, that play deserves its own article. Maybe I'll just post the picture at the end of this article. Like Grover's monster at the end of the book, you cannot escape that picture and the knowledge that that play could've been huge).

Snap 7: Part of a total breakdown against a stunt and leaves a rusher sprinting at Smith immediately.

Snap 8: Despite getting help from a chip by the tight end, gets beat inside by Miller almost immediately.

Snap 9: Beaten to the outside by 94.

Last snap: Beaten by Miller outside, but Miller slips. Still gets back up and starts pursuing.


Look, there's not a TON that can be taken from that review. We're talking about just 10 snaps. Coming in at the end of a very cold game against Von Miller when he's allowed to do nothing but pin his ears back and rush the passer is pretty much the worst situation you can possibly put an offensive lineman in. This doesn't mean Stephenson is terrible.

That said, I think it makes Reid's decision to stick with Harris at least a LITTLE more understandable. It's not like Stephenson came in and was even AS EFFECTIVE as Harris had been. Stephenson got beat on the majority of the snaps he was in. He had three snaps I would call wins and six (if I include holds) I would call losses. That's ... well, it's not good.

One can understand Reid's hesitation to go back to Stephenson when his brief action was so positively terrible.

If you're someone who has a hard time taking my word for it and loves Pro Football Focus, they "credited" Stephenson with giving up two sacks and two hurries in those 10 snaps, while "crediting" Harris with two hits and two hurries in the course of 23 snaps. Or, if you're a big fan of their grades, Harris was a -1.6 while Stephenson was a -2..4.

All that's to say that it's not just me hating on Stephenson. I like Stephenson. But he had an unbelievably poor string of snaps to end the Denver game, and it comes as no surprise to me that Harris remains "the guy."

And now, as promised, the monster at the end of this book. You really have to wonder how we'd be viewing the Denver game had this play turned out differently than a FUMBLE, of all things. Here's Avery as Smith is about to deliver him the ball (having evaded a really quick rush from both edges. It was one of Smith's better plays on a rough day overall).


I'm going to now go smash holes in walls and break all the breakable things. For what it's worth, Donnie was as upset as the rest of us were. Get out of bounds next time, Donnie. Get out of bounds.

Arrowhead Pride Premier

Sign up now for a 7-day free trial of Arrowhead Pride Premier, with exclusive updates from Pete Sweeney on the ground at Arrowhead, instant reactions after each game, and in-depth Chiefs analysis from film expert Jon Ledyard.