Hey Laurent, how’s it going man? Do you mind if I call you LDT? I know, I know you don’t know me all that well, but I’ve been calling you that for so long that it would be weird calling you anything else. Plus, I don’t know if you realize this, but that last name is a mouthful.
So, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing you. Make sense. See, the thing is, you don’t know me, but I know you. I have kinda been writing things about you for a couple of years now. A lot of things, actually. Things that weren’t exactly, uh, complimentary.
Now, before you get ticked off (you’re both a very large man AND someone with a lot of knowledge about the human body, so you’re the last person I want to upset), hear me out: it’s kind of my job to write about you. I know, sounds crazy. But, see, I write about the Chiefs for this site called Arrowhead Pride, and my main “job” is to watch film and talk about what I see. And that’s what I did with you, most recently and most specifically here (that’s the time I re-watched nine of your games from 2015 and gave my opinion that you... weren’t very good. Again, remember, it’s my job. Don’t hate me).
Anyway, the reason I’m writing you now is to say... I think you’re in the process of proving me way, way wrong, and I need to apologize.
Over the course of the last two preseason games, you’ve had to face a couple of solid defenses. Most recently, you went up against Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams, arguably the very best defensive line in the NFL. So, because this is what I do, I re-watched that game and came away with some numbers. I had already watched the Seahawks game and came away talking about what a great job you did (for real, I did! Look!)
I went into the game expecting you to take a big step back against tough competition. It wasn’t personal, LDT, it was just... I’ve been hurt before when it comes to guards. One might say I was afraid if I let my guard down, it would let me down. Get it? Sorry, that was lame. Anyway, you went out and did this against the best front four in football.
Pass Blocking Wins: 10
Pass Blocking Losses: 2
Run Blocking Wins: 7
Run Blocking Losses: 1 (a garbage tripping penalty that I felt dirty calling a loss)
Win Percentage: 40.5 percent
Lose Percentage: 7.1 percent
LDT, those numbers are... ridiculously good. When you throw in the level of competition you were playing, they get even more impressive.
And honestly, the game was better than the numbers.
I could talk about the number of times you stonewalled rushers 1-on-1 (and there were plenty of times, even against Michael Brockers and Cam Thomas, a pair of huge, scary dudes). I could talk about how great a job you did paving the way on running plays, and the fact that you seem to LOVE burying defenders and play until just after the whistle. I could talk about how your blend of athleticism and strength remain highly impressive. But I don’t want to talk about that.
I want to talk about how you basically made an anti-prophet out of me. Back in April I wrote these words:
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.
I spent all summer telling people that unless you improved on your footwork, balance, hand fighting, pad level, and overall awareness you wouldn’t be able to reach your potential. I said I had a hard time seeing that happen.
Well, based on what I’ve seen so far, brother, I need to tell you flat-out...
I. Was. Dead. Wrong.
Let’s talk about the ways you seem to have improved this year, taking a look at a snap that was one of your worst snaps of the day.
This isn't a perfect snap from LDT by any means, but his recovery demonstrates the improvement from last year. pic.twitter.com/YxGnYTN9Nv— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 24, 2016
Now, like I say in the tweet, this isn’t a perfect snap. That’s not the point of this. The point is that you went 1-on-1 against the best defensive tackle in the NFL. He got into your body quickly and tried to muscle you backward, and things looked dire. But you didn’t panic, and when he transitioned into a swim move (one of Donald’s favorite moves is that quick shove backward into a swim as guards lean forward to try and compensate for losing the handfight), rather than toppling over or getting blown by, you kept your balance, kept a wide base, lowered your shoulder into him, and shoved him sideways away from your quarterback.
Last year, swim moves KILLED you. No disrespect, man, but those were the plays you lost the most frequently and the most quickly. You would get beat in the handfight, lean in too far, and then lose your balance forward while the defender blew past you. It was a big weakness.
Now? Even the best in the business wasn’t able to get by you. I noticed that you used this same method to counter swim moves several other times throughout the game, each time with success. You had a weakness, and you’ve developed a way to account for that weakness and erased it. I respect that. It shows the work you’ve put in.
In fact, everything about your game from what I’ve seen so far this preseason shows the work you’ve put in. Your footwork (and as a result, your balance) looks WILDLY improved on from last year. How on earth did you work on that so much? Did you take ballet classes or something? it’s cool, man, you can tell me. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.
You also have become a much more aware helper in pass blocking. I watched your head on a swivel multiple plays when you didn’t have an individual defender to block. You found where help was needed quickly and provided it. You probably know this, but that dude to your left is one of the best in the NFL at providing help in pass protection. I gotta tell you, man, you looked a little like him in how busy you stayed out there. Bravo. Seriously, bravo.
And speaking of aware, how did you (while taking ballet classes and studying Mitch Morse’s tape, apparently) have time to become so smooth on stunts?
LDT and Schwartz handle a stunt perfectly here. Watch where LDT is looking- sees it coming a mile off. pic.twitter.com/YdJbKzzymt— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 24, 2016
Man, you knew that was coming before the coach called it. You knew that was coming before the defensive coordinator drew up that play back in July. You were freaking Professor X out there, man (along with Mitch Schwartz, who continues to just do what he does regardless of the opponent). And that’s not the only time I saw you guys handle stuff like that.
If I had been told to name the three biggest issues you had last season, I would’ve said that your balance (due to leaning/lunging and footwork problems), your issues with stunts / twists / blitzes, and your propensity for losing QUICKLY when you lost were the most glaring issues. And like magic, here you are, having improved on all those things drastically. It’s ... remarkable.
Even your losses are different than they were last year, as demonstrated by this snap against Donald.
1st loss for LDT. Even this shows improvement- keeps balance and at least forces Donald to take longer route to QB. pic.twitter.com/tKpyK7Vnph— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 24, 2016
Yeah, I know, you’re probably not thrilled that I included that snap in an apology letter. But seriously, man, that’s DIFFERENT. Last year, when you got beat at the line of scrimmage, that’s where you stayed, frozen in time as the defender sprinted in a straight line at Alex Smith.
Here, you kept your balance and moved laterally quickly enough to at least alter Donald’s path to the quarterback. That adds an extra half second of time, which allows Smith to get rid of the ball. Yes, it’s a loss. But it’s not a glaring, horrific loss that allowed the defender to get to the QB in the blink of an eye. Those distinctions matter.
But really, this isn’t about the losses. This is about the fact that literally every aspect of your game seems vastly improved this year. Your hand placement, your pad level, your awareness, all the other stuff we’ve already talked about ... it’s been like watching a different player out there.
I’m still afraid to believe, LDT. Like I said, I’ve been hurt before (if you decide we can be buds, I’ll tell you all about it. Some dude named Matt from Boston). But you are just CRUSHING it so far this season. Absolutely crushing it.
I said back in April that it was unlikely that you could make a big jump this season. From all appearances, I was so wrong I almost became right again (only not really, because I was that wrong). I swear, just a few more games like the last two and I’ll be all in.
In the meantime, please accept this public apology for doubting you could take big steps forward. From all appearances, I’m going to be eating those words for awhile, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Your (new) friend,