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Chiefs’ Cameron Erving review: From the ground up

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This started off as a pretty typical MNchiefsfan film review. You know the drill by now. The Chiefs sign a player, I go out and review multiple games and try to provide some semblance of that player’s strengths and weaknesses, usually by reviewing all-22 film and charting some form of wins, losses, neutral plays, and other in depth stats.

I started off doing that with Cameron Erving, whom the Chiefs traded a conditional fifth round pick for on Wednesday in a move that I did not even come close to seeing before it happened. I started off with his tape at LT this preseason, charting all the usual stuff and gathering up my normal pile of GIFs. I then moved on to Erving’s film as a center and (in one game) a right tackle.

But along the way, something about the whole process changed for me and I stopped charting snaps and making GIFs. Instead, I just WATCHED. And I’m going to be brutally honest with you, what I saw was ... rough.

I could talk to you about Erving’s wins and losses at tackle or center, but to be honest those numbers (they’re bad) aren’t going to really tell the story with him. In fact, even a series of GIFs wouldn’t really do it justice unless there were about 20 of them.

Because to be perfectly honest, Cameron Erving is a player whose film demonstrated way, way more issues than can be adequately summed up in a win/loss chart or anything under a dozen GIFs. And to be perfectly frank, making a dozen GIFs of bad snaps sounds incredibly depressing right now, and my time is valuable to me. So I’m not going to go that route.

Instead, I’m going to discuss the things Erving struggled with in the times I watched them, then close with the reasons I THINK the Chiefs wanted him (despite how this has begun, not everything was bad. Just most things). It just won’t be as GIF-happy as normal, because trust me ... you don’t want that life in this review. You really don’t.

I think the best way to begin is by saying I believe Erving is a significantly better fit for what Andy Reid does than what he was doing in Cleveland. There, while he was at times pulling in space, he was often trying to just overpower the man in front of him in the run game. That’s not going to work for Erving, and he consistently found himself unable to generate push.

Overall, I believe Erving is going to need a complete overhaul to be a productive player for the Chiefs. To begin with, he seems to have real balance issues, often getting toppled over as though he were top heavy (a description a few of you pointed out on Twitter). He ended up on the ground far, far more than an offensive lineman should. This was true whether he was at LT or C, though he acquitted himself somewhat better in this area (and other areas as well) at RT.

As a pass protector, Erving struggled with both speed rushes and power rushes, often from the same player. There were series as a left tackle where he got left in the dust one snap only to get bowled over by the same player the next. As mentioned, Erving doesn’t seem to have good balance when engaging with defenders, particularly when they get into his pads or are able to get him off base even a little. As a result, once he engaged bull rushes he’d get knocked off balance too quickly.

Erving’s kick-slide is interesting, in that he gets a lot of movement without getting a lot of movement (re-reads ... yeah that makes about as much sense as I thought it would). It’s tough to describe. Erving will be churning his legs, yet ground isn’t being covered like it should. For a player with some length, he just doesn’t stride the way you’d like as he moves laterally. That results in him getting beaten around the edge far more than he should at LT (again, RT was better).

At center, Erving’s pass blocking isn’t as noticeably bad, but he’s still not strong enough against bull rushes for me to be comfortable. There are times he gets rolled into the quarterback within a second or so, something Chiefs fans almost never see despite Mitch Morse not being the biggest guy in the world. Here, again, he ends up on the ground more than he should.

This is all getting depressing. Here’s aGIF of Rakeem Nunez-Roches’s unnaturally fast jump at the snap to cheer you up.

Whew. That’s fun stuff, yeah? All right, back to it.

Whether Erving was at tackle or center, he seemed to play like a rookie to me, in that he was often hesitant both as a pass protector and a run blocker if he had to make a choice regarding who to block or where to be. You could see the wheels turning as he’d look around trying to figure out where to go. I’ve been spoiled by watching Fisher/Morse/Schwartz in 2016, all of whom are very assignment-savvy and have a naturally quick understanding of how to adapt when things go askew. When things don’t go exactly how they’re drawn up, Erving looks lost. That’s not a good sign his 3rd year in the league.

Another issue Erving had (I know, I’m just saying what I saw) was that despite good length and athleticism (there will be a “pros” section, I promise), he isn’t good at locking on to defenders once engaged. Instead, defenders pretty consistently slide off of him or disengage at will.

In short, Erving looks like a guy who was drafted this year, not in 2015. His issues with balance, engaging, adapting on the move, strength, and lateral agility are all really, really concerning. Yeah, he might be better at tackle than what the Chiefs currently have as backups, but even that may be a stretch if you want my honest opinion.

As a backup center? Fulton looked better than what I saw from Erving, although it’s worth noting that both of them were in a system that didn’t really accentuate their respective talents.

So... why on earth did the Chiefs pull the trigger on this trade?

I think it all has to do with physical traits and potential. Erving is a marvelous athlete in space. Even in Cleveland’s system (which didn’t have him moving much), you’d see him get into the open field every now and then and he MOVES once he’s out there. I think he’s faster and more athletic in space than LDT and maybe even on par with Morse. It’s impressive to watch.

Additionally, Erving demonstrated long, strong arms and a really solid punch (despite his overall strength issues) that you could see as being very useful if it’s ever properly employed on a consistent basis.

In short, Erving appears to be an effort to grab a guy with first round talent for pennies on the dollar, with the belief that the Chiefs can coach out his issues and that his strengths (particularly movement on the run) will be more in line with what Andy Reid needs than what was needed in Cleveland. And hey, I can’t say they’re wrong. He absolutely DOES show the raw athleticism and (maybe) length/upper body strength to become a good player.

It’s just that he seems so far away from realizing that potential. Again, one can’t underestimate the value of a scheme switch, and my sincere hope is that Erving puts it all together now that he’s out of Cleveland (I, like many other Chiefs fans, wanted Erving when he was coming out of FSU. The talent was clear to see).

However, at this point it seems like there’s a really long road ahead. Erving needs to work on virtually every aspect of playing offensive line in the NFL before I’ll be remotely comfortable with him taking snaps. Here’s to hoping he makes me feel as silly as LDT has managed to make me feel.