Against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line either played a heck of a game or had a lousy day at the office. It all depends on where you focus.
The interior of the offensive line is the strength of the unit; its rookies have been the most promising so far. Creed Humphrey at center and Trey Smith at right guard have stood out — and have given us a lot for which we can be excited. Joe Thuney has done a nice job — although I have also noticed that sometimes he can be in a hurry, leaving his teammates hanging just a bit.
Meanwhile, offensive tackles Orlando Brown Jr. and Lucas Niang have been a different story.
Creed helping Thuney with eyes on Smith, both guards handling their own, Brown with a good rep pic.twitter.com/wXigSrFTQI— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) October 15, 2021
Brown hasn’t been too bad; most of the time, he has actually played quite well.
Here, he provides a good rep where he doesn’t give up any pressure. He does a good job halting upfield progress but doesn’t lose to the counter back inside. The three players inside aren’t letting anything through — but Niang looks a bit unbalanced against powerful Buffalo rusher Jerry Hughes.
Kelce essentially blocks two guys, his actual blocking assignment and the guy in coverage who clears out when Kelce pulls, creates a huge hole, Brown & iOL controls LOS and Niang walls his man off initially pic.twitter.com/LHSiisHSGE— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) October 15, 2021
From the running game, we see a good example of how dominant the offensive line can be.
On this play, tight end Travis Kelce’s presence — by itself — creates s massive hole. Kelce pulls to get the back side end; his man in coverage follows him, which opens up the play. Smith and Humphrey double, while Brown is able to reach the 3-tech. Niang is successful in walling his guy off until Williams reaches the second level.
Don’t want to continue picking on Niang but no excuse to lose leverage on this block, he needs to keep his feet moving pic.twitter.com/tBZ1JVAYGR— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) October 15, 2021
Here, it looks like Ed Oliver (91) gives rookie Greg Rousseau (50) a little boost in the back — but still, Niang can’t allow Rousseau to cross his face. Once he loses leverage, the whole play is disrupted. Smith could do a better job on Rousseau and Oliver — but those are two talented defenders, too. They provide good measuring sticks for the young guys on the right side.
Executed nicely but Smith should stay under control so he can lock on, his guy makes the tackle from behind. I love watching Kelce block, I wonder if he and his brother ever work OL drills in the off-season pic.twitter.com/LWZ2tFVxtd— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) October 15, 2021
Smith is a good offensive lineman who will continue to develop and improve. But here is an example of a rep he will want back.
If he is able to lock onto his man to drive him out, this play ends differently. He is out of control on his pull; it takes almost nothing for the defender to avoid contact and make the tackle. Smith’s pull footwork looks improved from the preseason — but here, he doesn’t finish the block.
Another nice pocket for Mahomes, Hardman drifts away from pass & I’m thinking he needs to flatten it out more, he’s closing ground for the defender which doesn’t help pic.twitter.com/bA7U5YWGXD— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) October 14, 2021
Providing a clean pocket to protect quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the offensive line’s first priority. In 2021, they have mostly been reliable. Here is an example of a good-looking pocket.
Unfortunately, the play goes nowhere — but the negative outcome has nothing to do with the line. Both tackles are bigger, so teams will try to take advantage on the outside. Brown and Niang each do a solid job against the rush.
OL does their job, clean pocket for Mahomes, collapses a little at the end but all day to hit a wide open Kelce, no excuses here for No. 15 pic.twitter.com/LQfpx3KGmv— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) October 14, 2021
Here’s another example of a squeaky-clean pocket. There’s zero pressure until the tail end; there’s plenty of time. This is a play you expect the Chiefs to complete in their sleep — but it isn’t to be. Simply put, Mahomes misses on this one. He won’t see protection much better than this.
Looks like Trey leaves before Creed was really ready to go solo which plugs stuff up plus the second level blocking isn’t where it should be on this play, Niang got absolutely owned pic.twitter.com/Nbl8wdlr5v— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) October 13, 2021
This play looks like a timing error. Humphrey doesn’t get full control of the defender before Smith leaves the double team. While the two rookies have had plenty of successful double-team reps, this one isn’t quite there. There’s nothing to be too concerned about; they’ll clean this up.
The bottom line
This is — by far — the most scrutiny the Chiefs offense has faced during the Mahomes era. The offense possesses way too much talent for it to continue playing the way it has been. Turnovers have been troublesome — but sometimes, you have to just take what the defense is giving you. But when you take a step back, the issues on the offensive side seem fixable; while they are still working out a few kinks, there are still a lot of positives to build upon.