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Film review: against Bills, offensive line has up-and-down day

Playing against Buffalo, some offensive linemen shined — while others struggled mightily.

NFL: OCT 10 Bills at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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