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An ode to Mitch Morse, the Kansas City Chiefs center

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I love Mitch Morse.

I don’t mean that in the way football fans usually say it, like I love him as a player. I actually have a deep, abiding love for Morse that burns with the heat of a thousand suns. And not regular suns either, like super giant suns that blot ours out and make all other forms of heat seem insignificant (quick note, for some reason I seem to recall bigger stars aren’t as hot, but I’m not letting science get in the way of love and neither should you).

Anyways, what was I talking about? Oh, yes, how much I love Mitch Morse. The reasons I love him are many, but the quick explanation can be found here, in Episode 2 of the MNchiefsfan Podcast.

To sum up:

  1. He’s a complete surprise. When the Chiefs took him I had no idea who he was, and most people I spoke with didn’t expect him to instantly with the center spot (though some Missouri fans told me he’d be a stud, I assumed it was homerism).
  2. He’s an overachiever who has overcome a significant physical deficiency (a lack of strength and weight at a position where that can hurt you).
  3. Watching him play in space is borderline unbelievable
  4. He does everything right. Just... everything. Here, allow me to demonstrate.

Morse is not a naturally strong guy. It’s is only real weakness as an offensive lineman. However, he often (as here) makes up for that weakness by doing everything you’re supposed to do as an offensive lineman. He gets his pads about as low as you can get them to explode up into Vince Wilfork (a mammoth of a nose tackle and the type of player who has traditionally given Morse problems). He gets his hands inside of Wilfork’s pads and, when Wilfork displaces them, immediately resets them. He keeps a wide base with his feet and never, ever stops churning them (think LJ at his absolute peak). All those things combine to allow him to stonewall a much bigger, much stronger player.

And so I love the guy. And so should you. Morse had a solid rookie year and a very good second year. His third year, based on what I reviewed, continued that trend (though I’m not sure how much better he was than last year, he was again very good).

(late note... I’m a moron who wrote this late at night after a long day. Morse has only been in the league 2 years).

Once again, if you don’t know how I review offensive linemen, check it out here. I track every snap on all-22, charting wins/losses/neutral plays as a run and a pass blocker. I also look at how many pressures/hits/sacks a player allowed. The idea is to see how the player did independent of whether the play was successful or not. Let’s dive into the numbers, then talk about what Morse’s strengths/weaknesses are. For frame of reference, here is last year’s film review (I know, I know, it has more games. I’ve gotten complacent, clearly. Also, it’s clear, like it is with Fisher’s review this year, that I’ve gotten a lot stingier with “wins” as a reviewer. It’s always funny to watch work evolve over time).

Here are a few things I can tell you. First, Mitch Morse is not perfect. As much as I wish he were, you can see that he does, indeed, lose sometimes.

However, Morse’s 7.6 percent is an improvement on his impressive second season, and that’s reflected in what you see in his film. In four games, Morse gave up four pressures and one QB hit (on a stunt he missed). That’s fantastic work in pass protection. Even when he lost, Morse was often able to do JUST enough to keep opposing defenders from getting getting home before Alex Smith could get rid of the ball or bail out.

Another thing I would note is all those run block wins. Center isn’t always an easy position to collect those at, and my boy was just gobbling them up some games.

But really, those numbers just tell us what we already knew: Morse is a good center. He just is. Let’s talk about his film a bit.

The first thing that you notice about Morse is his athleticism.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a sprint to the edge on a stretch run or charging to the second level to find a linebacker to lock on to, Morse is unbelievably fast getting where he needs to go. So fast that he makes guys who are quite athletic (such as Eric Fisher and LDT) look slow in comparison. He gets to linebackers so quickly that it almost seems like they’re surprised, and then he locks on and it’s go time.

Here, Morse gets to the linebacker with unreal speed, then positions himself perfectly to stay between the defender and the ball carrier. There’s absolutely no threat to the runner on this play. Morse’s finish (a variation of the ol’ “I’ll crouch behind this dude and you push him” gag) is just the icing on the cake.

Morse’s athleticism isn’t limited to just sprinting, though. He’s got exceptional lateral agility and uses that to recover on the rare instances he finds himself out of position. He can turn a “loss” into a “neutral” with his quickness and knowledge of how to counter when things aren’t going his way. It’s so much fun to watch.

While we’re talking about run blocking, Morse’s ability there isn’t just limited to how quickly he’s able to run down the field. He is absolutely exceptional at sticking combo blocks.

So the general idea with combo blocks is that that you get to have your cake and eat it too. That is, you get the benefit of a double team initially (so extra push on a single defender) AND you have a linebacker or secondary player picked up by an offensive lineman.

What Morse is wonderful at doing is timing just how long he sticks with the double team before sliding off into the next level. The speed with which he leaves his teammate alone against the defender varies depending on the play. Sometimes he has to hit and run, others (like the example above, the game-icing first down against the Raiders) he sticks it out for much longer than you’d think possible. He just seems to understand exactly how long he has before he needs to move on. His Quickness makes him able to wait longer than most, which is a major benefit. Holding a double team even an extra .2 seconds can mean a push of another yard or two, which in a game of inches means a great deal (you know, like 36 or 72 inches).

Here’s Morse in a situation he needs to speed things up (one of my favorite run-blocking GIFs of the year).

Morse’s ability to time his combo blocks is a great example of who he is as a run blocker and a player in general. He just understands how to play football. He’s great with angles and understands how to change his positioning according to where the runner is going. He gets into space quickly but rarely gets caught lunging in space at the second level (a rarity for pulling offensive linemen, as linebackers and secondary players are much quicker by nature).

In short, Morse is a wonderful run blocker, and I love him.

As a pass blocker, Morse is (for lack of a better word) an overachiever.

This is one of my favorite pass blocking GIFs of all time. While Vince Wilfork is hardly known for being a great pass rusher, he IS an incredibly large, incredibly powerful human who is much, much bigger and stronger than Morse. He’s actually the archetype of the only player who consistently gives Morse issues: the huge, powerful interior linemen, generally nose tackles.

How does Morse (listed at 6’6 and 305, which I think is pretty accurate) manage to hold off Wilfork, who is four inches closer (so the lower man) and weighs FAR above his listed 325 pounds? The answer to this is part of why I love Morse so fiercely: he wins by doing everything right.

Morse gets lower than a guy four inches shorter than him, gets his hands inside Wilfork’s pads, and starts driving with his legs with a wide base to support him. When his left hand gets displaced he gets it back IMMEDIATELY and never, ever stops driving.

That particular snap should be played for guys who think they’re too small to play interior line. Sure, the size of the dog in the fight matters, but Morse makes up for it with technique and will. Again, I love him.

Morse is consistently very, very solid as a pass blocker. His technique is sound and he’s generally able to handle any one-on-one block he’s asked to make. As a “free” blocker (which centers often are), he stays busy and looks for work (meaning he finds someone to hit that helps the overall pass blocking) better than any Chief I can remember reviewing. He’s a major asset to the blocking as a whole in that respect.

There are only two times Morse struggles a bit as a pass blocker: against raw strength and well-executed stunts. As I’ve stated, Morse is hardly a powerhouse, and at times very strong interior linemen are able to get him on his heels and move him backward towards the quarterback before he can recover. The majority of his losses (and keep in mind, there weren’t many) were had this way. With regards to stunts, Morse missed a few of those and they resulted in instant pressure. That’s a big no-no for a center, and it’s an interesting mistake considering Morse’s seemingly cerebral approach to the game.

However, outside of those two things, Morse is nearly flawless as a pass blocker. And even in those areas, Morse generally gets the job done. They are just places that need improvement before he’ll be considered in the elite class of centers in my opinion (the power issue affects him in the run game at times too.

In addition to his “regular” blocking, Morse is a man apart in the screen game.

I could watch that all day. Morse’s combination of savviness and athleticism allow him to have a major impact on a big play (this was Kelce’s 70-yard touchdown), and sadly for him it’s an impact that goes unnoticed by the public at large. The initial club mostly just looks cool (though it’s fantastic to keep the QB safe on a screen rather than having defenders screaming at him), but the block he makes on Von Miller could well have prevented this play from getting stopped for little to no gain considering Miller’s closing speed.

Morse’s ability to get out there quickly (athleticism) and recognize where the block needed to be made (savvy) is about as good a demonstration as you’ll get as to why my love for his game is borderline unhealthy (or just flat-out unhealthy depending on the day).

In short, Morse is a very good center, and you should love him as much as I do. Oh, and by the way, I’ve been misspelling his name this entire article. Don’t I feel foolish. it’s

MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHH

MOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRSSSSSSSSSEEEEEEEEE

and don’t you forget it.