Jah Reid and Zach Fulton are (likely) going to be starting for the Chiefs against the Patriots today at RG and C, respectively.
Had I written that sentence a month or two ago, it would have been cause for a mass panic among the comments. Dogs marrying cats, people lighting each other on fire, someone throwing a trident... it would be ugly.
However, after seeing the two of them pass the eye test against a stout Texans' defensive line last week, many Chiefs fans are feeling a lot better about the depth along the offensive line. At first glance, both Reid and Fulton appeared to be more than capable of handling things as LDT and Mitch Morse proceed through the concussion protocol.
So the question that lingered for me was whether or not the eye test was correct. How well DID Reid and Fulton do out there (particularly Reid, playing RG extensively for the first time this season)? As you all know, I'm not capable of leaving such things to the imagination. So I went back and re-watched each snap, charting wins, losses, and neutral plays for each player.
If you'll recall, a "win" is a play where the offensive lineman clearly beats the man in front of him and makes a positive impact on the play. A loss is, you know, the opposite. A neutral play is one where either it's unclear what the assignment of the OL was (making it impossible to grade) or where the OL neither won clearly or lost clearly. I then do math (yuck) to find the "win percentage" and "loss percentage" for the OL.
I generally find the "loss percentage" to be the more important number. If an OL wins on many snaps but is losing just as often, it hurts an offense more than an OL who rarely "wins" but is often neutral (battling to a stalemate). Anything over a 10 percent loss percentage makes me start to feel uncomfortable, depending on the overall context of the game. Win percentage is what can separate an OK performance from a great one.
Let's start with Jah Reid, who is an interesting case. Many people (myself included) have long argued that Reid is a better fit at RG than RT, given his slow lateral movement. How did he do at RG?
Well, before we get into the numbers, let's sum it up with a GIF.
I love this block by Reid. Helping C, keeps head up, sees rusher getting inside RT and BOOM!!!! pic.twitter.com/R4ZTBOvyhQ— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) January 14, 2016
Yeah, that sums it up pretty well.
I went into this expecting Reid to have performed at a solid level. He did that and significantly more, notching the best grade (in a "full" game or something close to it) of any offensive lineman I've graded this season.
|Pass Block Wins||Pass Block Losses||Run Block Wins||Run Block Losses||Neutral||Win %||Loss %|
Reid was absolutely exceptional against the Texans. Not just good. Exceptional.
I was as surprised as you. Reid has done decently at RT this season when called on, but has demonstrated some issues with his lateral movement and slightly heavy feet. Fortunately for him, RG doesn't really require much kick-sliding. Instead, the RG in Reid's offense is often asked to pull and block down the line or get into space. Reid showed the ability to do both effectively from that spot. His heavy feet are clearly an issue with lateral movement, but not nearly as much when he's actually running in a straight line.
A 45 percent win percentage is quite high for an offensive lineman (the majority of snaps are almost always neutral). Reid won so often due to his ability to get into space and lock onto defenders, his highly aggressive playing style (constantly, constantly looking for someone to hit and finishing blocks), and his brute strength.
What made Reid's game exceptional, though, was the lack of losses. Not having a single clear loss in pass protection is a rare thing. Reid plays with a strong base, has a pretty powerful punch, and doesn't let himself get rocked by power moves. He also keeps his balances and does well against speed moves by being the aggressor. It's tough to execute a good spin when you're getting shoved off-balance.
Additionally, Reid plays smart in pass protection. The opening GIF is fun because of the massive hit he lays on the Texans' defender, but what's sustainable about that play is Reid's awareness. He does a very good job helping where he's needed when left without a defender to block on his own. His head stays up and he is aware of when another OL is starting to lose.
In the run game, Reid plays with a mean streak. He had multiple pancakes against the Texans and is always looking to finish strong.
4 snaps into Jah Reid's RG film. Strong enough to rock the DL, aggressive to finish off the pancake. Love it. pic.twitter.com/3PNvKqVRKS— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) January 14, 2016
On this play, if Reid were less aggressive it could be a loss. He lays a nice hit on the DL, but since he doesn't lock on the defender still has a chance to hit Charcandrick West. Before the DL can really make the hit, though, Reid is just laying into him, pancaking him into the ground. I love it.
That level of aggression defines Reid's game. The nice thing about it is he never let the aggression lead to him getting caught lunging or leaning into defenders. Controlled violence is what an offensive lineman should be defined by, and Reid had that down pat against the Texans (see what I did there? You know, Pat? Patriots? I'm in the zone, guys).
One game is a wildly small sample size, but if I were Andy Reid I would have Jah Reid at RG for the foreseeable future, or at least until he shows the Texans' game was a fluke. Because at a position the Chiefs have struggled to find average play all season, Reid was way beyond that. If he can sustain 90 percent of the level of play he had last Saturday, Reid would be a BARGAIN moving forward at RG.
Next we have Zach Fulton, a guy who has pleasantly surprised many Chiefs fans (after struggling at guard earlier in the year) by appearing pretty competent at the center position.
|Pass Block Wins||Pass Block Losses||Run Block Wins||Run Block Losses||Neutral||Win %||Loss %|
After reviewing the film, I'm not QUITE as heavy on the Fulton hype train as some are. He has a solid win percentage (actually getting identical win numbers to Reid, albeit on more snaps), but the loss percentage number gives me a little bit of pause.
The biggest issue I saw with Fulton (and the reason for most of his losses) is that he appears very, very uncomfortable in space on most of his snaps. He doesn't seem to move particularly well when asked to maneuver out of the "phone booth." His feet are very, very heavy, and defenders are able to simply step around him. I'm guessing this is why he struggled so much a guard, a position (in Andy Reid's offense) where you're CONSTANTLY being asked to pull into space.
You know how when you watch Jeff Allen play, you can't believe how well he moves in space due to the fact that he's built like some kind of barrel? Well, Fulton looks the same way, but actually moves how you expect. That's less than ideal if you're on the second level.
Fulton wasn't asked to pull all that much from the center position (as opposed to Morse, who does it quite a bit and is exceptional at it), and you can see why from the very first snap he does it. It's just not natural for him. I attributed all but one of his "losses" in the run game to him being out-maneuvered by a faster player. It's just who he is.
On the other hand, Fulton definitely brings some strengths to the table, the primary one being... well, strength.
Fulton is stout if nothing else. Holds up one-on-one vs Wilfork, walls him off from runner. pic.twitter.com/u9dsG5GCb4— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) January 16, 2016
Not many offensive linemen are able to stand up to Vince Wilfork one-on-one. He's just a big, big, big man. Fulton, fortunately, is built powerfully enough (no way he's still at his listed 316 pounds in my opinion) and has a strong enough base to hold his own and allow the runner to slip by.
Fulton is a rock in the middle. Bull rushes aren't generally getting by him, and from the center position he's just not seeing enough speed rushes to consistently make him pay for his lack of foot speed (he's not lining up against Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard, fortunately). He seems to have a good awareness of assignments and didn't get too bothered by the few stunts the Texans pulled.
Fulton is the ideal center for a power blocking system. He can move in space downhill to an extent (if not asked to go too far) and is more than capable of moving most defenders off the ball. If a defensive lineman or linebacker wants to make it a shoving match, Fulton wins the majority of the time. He's just a big, strong guy. It's when he gets outside that wheelhouse where he gets into trouble.
Fulton looks quite a bit more limited at center than Reid does at guard. I'm assuming that the reason Andy Reid likes Morse at center is that Morse has some power but is also exceptional in space. Fulton isn't as complete a package, but he's definitely able to hold his own and helps a great deal on runs between the tackles. He doesn't play quite as aggressively as Reid, but definitely shows a mean streak at times (he BURIED Brian Cushing after Cushing kept shoving Fulton's face on a play. Good times).
Overall, Fulton didn't wow me the way Reid did, but he did well enough to avoid being a weak spot on the line and brings a specific set of strengths that, when matched up with the strengths of Jeff Allen and Jah Reid, explain why the Chiefs were able to have success running the ball against the Texans. Those three create a very tough, very strong interior group.
And when you pair that with a powerful runner like Spencer Ware, that can be tough to stop.
For those of you still up; Fulton had a fantastic block on Ware's 4th Quarter TD run. Allen had a great one too. pic.twitter.com/a9jceAFDpc— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) January 16, 2016
This touchdown happens for two reasons. First, Spencer Ware is a beast - he shrugs off the contact in the backfield when Fisher isn't able to reach his defender in time, then basically scares 29 away. Second, Allen and Fulton just dominate the pair of linebackers they're assigned to. They do a nice job driving Cushing back, then Fulton moves to the next level (notice that he doesn't have to go far? That's key) and just destroys the remaining linebacker. Touchdown, Chiefs.
So here's to the offensive line depth showing up and showing out again today. They're going to need it.