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Chiefs G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif: Unrealized potential or just a guy?

So as the offseason continues and we knock one film review after another out of the park, a horrible realization came to me... My real job is going to prevent me from doing as much film review as I want this offseason.

It was a really bad moment for me. See, I'm at the type of firm where doing football work during normal business hours just isn't in the cards. And when I come home and immediately start reviewing Chiefs film, Mrs. MNchiefsfan starts to throw heavy objects at me (something about four kids and another one due any day now. I'll need to verify, but she was definitely upset).

With that realization, I knew I had to either lower the number of PLAYERS I plan on watching or the number of PLAYS per player. After consulting the masses via the Twitter, we decided democratically ('cuz it's America, man) that rather than view EVERY snap for players I look at, we'll just do a solid sample size.

LDT is a very solid athlete, but he also possesses some good strength overall, especially in his upper body and with his punch

The two exceptions I can think of to this rule will be Alex Smith (for obvious reasons) and Marcus Peters (because it seems we still can't agree on just how good he was last year). Beyond those two, though, we're going to lower the snap count a bit. Starting with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

You all know who LDT is. He's been the source of a great deal of debate around these parts. One crowd loves the potential he has, the other crowd feels like he's a liability on the field. And so, to the film we go. I watched nine games, trying to go throughout the year to get a good sense of if LDT developed as we went along.

For some context, we've done plenty of offensive linemen reviews already this offseason. Here is a link to every snap by Mitch Morse (who is a stud, by the way). Here is a link to a review of the recently departed Jeff Allen (so long, big guy. You will be missed). Finally, here's a look at four games by Mitchell Schwartz, the Chiefs new RT.

So here's the skinny for you new people. I track every snap an offensive lineman takes, charting wins, losses, and neutral snaps. They are all exactly what they sound like. A win is when the OL clearly takes out an opposing defender or keeps him completely clear of the QB. A loss is when the OL clearly gets rolled in some way, shape or form. A neutral play (by far the most common) are in that murky in between OR exist on plays where the lineman doesn't really do much (say, a quick WR screen the other direction).

As I've shared in the past, the most important number I track is loss percentage, or the percentage of the time an offensive lineman loses as compared to his total snaps. If you're an offensive lineman, it's far more important to not lose than to win. A neutral snap for an OL will generally still allow a play to function. A loss can ruin things even if every other player on the offense does his job perfectly. The magic number for me is 10 percent. If you stay below 10 percent, you're at least not a liability. Guys who creep under seven percent or so have entered elite territory. Yes, the margin is that thin for an offensive lineman when it comes to losses.

All right, all that said, let's look at LDT's numbers and then discuss what his tape looks like; the good, the bad, and the ugly included.

Game PB Wins PB Losses RB Wins RB Losses Neutral Win % Loss %
vs HOU 7 7 6 3 41 20.3% 15.6%
vs DEN 6 6 6 5 34 21.1% 19.3%
vs GB 15 8 4 3 34 29.7% 17.2%
vs PIT 19 3 15 3 21 55.7% 9.8%
vs DET 8 2 7 5 40 24.2% 11.3%
vs DEN (2) 8 6 7 7 38 22.7% 19.7%
vs SD 12 3 10 4 25 40.7% 12.9%
vs CLE 7 3 8 4 31 28.3% 13.2%
vs OAK 13 3 12 3 32 39.7% 9.5%
Totals 95 41 75 37 296 31.3% 14.3%

If those are way too many numbers to stare at, focus on the percentages on the right. Those are the moneymakers.

First off, to point out the obvious ... I'm not at all comfortable with that loss percentage. It's not just flirting with the boundary of 10 percent, it's way past it. For frame of reference, Mitch Schwartz's loss percentage is 6.16 percent. Mitch Morse is at 8.1 percent. Jeff Allen was at 8.1 percent (rounded up) as well.

In other words, LDT loses significantly more often than players I would call good offensive lineman. That's ... less than ideal.

The problem with losses, as I mentioned above, is that they can completely destroy a play.

Now, I know some of you are going to say (or think) something like, "Well, that's J.J. Watt. Stuff happens against Watt."

I absolutely promise you the scenario you just watched - with LDT caught lunging / leaning and finding himself completely off balance - repeated itself multiple times throughout the nine games I watched. LDT consistently loses his footing, whether it's in pass protection or as a run blocker. The problem really presents itself when he is trying to stop pass rushers. I don't think a single game went by in which LDT didn't have at least two snaps where he was IMMEDIATELY beaten at the line of scrimmage. That's a problem.

And in case you're wondering, I did not see a noticeable improvement in this area as the year went along. This next clip is from week 17.

As you can see, both snaps end up with the same result; LDT off balance and a rusher going free toward Alex Smith. The only reason Smith didn't get killed on this play is that Morse makes a fantastic help block (Morse's awareness is spooky good).

LDT's primary issue is that of footing. I don't know if it's because he's overthinking, or if the game is too fast for him, or what. He's a good athlete (though he doesn't pop on tape like you'd expect considering his measurables), so I don't think that's the problem. But he ends up on the ground more than any other offensive lineman out there. That's the primary reason for his high loss percentage; dem feet, man.

Now, it's not all bad with LDT by any means. You can see a lot to like about him in between his losses. Most of those positive traits consist of physical ability. LDT is a very solid athlete, but he also possesses some good strength overall, especially in his upper body and with his punch (when he doesn't go over the top and lunge). It can be tough to find a lineman who is both athletic AND strong. LDT definitely fits that bill.

Now, this is hardly textbook technique by the defender, but LDT does show on this snap why people get excited about the possibilities he presents. He can get moving quickly, but he also has enough punch in his upper body to shove the defender backward rather than just "walling" him off from the runner. The physical tools are definitely there.

Another thing to like about LDT is that he likes to hit people, or at least he fakes it while on the field. He consistently mixed it up with defenders and was involved in more than a few post-whistle shoving matches. For most positions that's a bad thing. For offensive linemen? It's a positive any time it's not out of control. And I never got the feeling LDT was out of control at all. Just physical.

So between the attitude and the physical attributes, I really do understand why some people drool over the idea of him seizing a starting guard spot. And I'm rooting for him. On snaps where he puts everything together it can be a lot of fun to watch.

I mean, who doesn't like that? That's good stuff!

Here's the problem; as things stand, the negatives still far outweigh the positives with LDT. It was true at the beginning of 2015, and it remained true throughout the season.

The problems aren't just limited to LDT's lack of balance out there. He is consistently a step slow when it comes to providing help in pass protection (when he's left without his own rusher to block), and he just doesn't look natural staying busy in that situation. He also has a tendency to be a step slow to his spot when run blocking, despite having superior athleticism.

No one will root harder for LDT to seize a starting guard job than me, and I hope to eat these words. But unless he's quite a bit better than he was in 2015, he will continue to be a weak spot on the line

Both of those issues, from what I can tell, are mental. He just doesn't process the game as fast as a guy like Morse or Allen. Now, those who are fans of LDT will say that he made a huge jump from playing in Canada to the NFL, and that's certainly true. However, we're talking about a player who was in the end of his second full year in the league by the time we got to the end of 2015. Frankly, it's concerning to me when I'm not seeing improvement in those mental speed facets of the game after that much time on the field. Again, at least from what I can tell.

Now, we all know LDT is a sharp guy, considering the whole doctor thing. That said, being smart doesn't necessarily translate to NFL game speed smart. It could well be he overthinks his assignment and that slows him down a step. I have no clue. However, until he shows a marked improvement in his ability to keep up on the field I'm not comfortable with him as a starter.

LDT is a classic example of fans really latching on to a player's physical potential. He's definitely got some tools to be a solid guard in the NFL. But he was not even average in 2015, or all that close to it. Nor did his film change over the course of the year in a way that makes me believe it's likely he'll make a big jump forward in 2016.

No one will root harder for LDT to seize a starting guard job than me, and I hope to eat these words. But unless he's quite a bit better than he was in 2015, he will continue to be a weak spot on the line that will shoot some plays in the foot every week.

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