Going into the game, the Kansas City offensive line was in for some tough competition against the Broncos’ top-15 rushing defense. The Chiefs’ offense finished with 89 total rushing yards and gave up one sack. It wasn’t the best day the men in the trenches have had — but they were taking on a good front seven.
The fact that two rookies — right guard Trey Smith and center Creed Humphrey — are playing at such high levels is very good news for the future of the offense.
Check out Trey and Creed, it’s crazy those two are rookies pic.twitter.com/R8KMHRtG1s— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) December 10, 2021
On this play, the hole that is opened up in the strong-side A gap — right between the two rookies — is big enough for a sedan to drive through.
With veteran left guard Joe Thuney under contract through 2025, the interior of the offensive line appears to be set for the near future.
Look at the big boys moving! The Chiefs iOL is so good pic.twitter.com/ToM4VqcWV9— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) December 10, 2021
On this screen pass, we can see the versatility these three display. Humphrey is able to clear the linebacker out while Thuney gets his hands on Kareem Jackson — and then Smith finishes him off. All of them move so fluidly in space that running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is able to get in behind them to gain significant yardage.
Zero pressure on Mahomes, great reps across the board pic.twitter.com/RUO4Baz3x7— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) December 10, 2021
Here is an example of a positive pass protection rep. Right tackle Andrew Wylie does a nice job of keeping Bradley Chubb controlled — while Thuney’s mirroring of the 3-technique rusher is fundamentally impressive. Smith and Humphrey each get their hands on the 2i-technique rusher (lined up on the right guard’s interior shoulder) before Humphrey takes over — showing no signs of struggling.
92 for Denver gets passed from Wylie, to Smith, to Creed while Brown and Thuney handle the left side pic.twitter.com/SE9Jc1vUhO— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) December 10, 2021
Here we see Wylie, Smith and Humphrey all doing their part to keep the defensive end from penetrating the line of scrimmage; in seamless fashion, each passes him off to the next. Left tackle Orlando Brown, Jr. violently takes over Thuney’s block as the guard picks up the blitz.
But as good as Smith has been, the rookie can still have some momentary lapses.
Don’t see reps like this from Smith too often anymore, 13 weeks ago maybe, but not now pic.twitter.com/pDABBseuxt— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) December 10, 2021
Here he is beaten by the defensive tackle on a passing play. The pressure ends up being a straight shot to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has to get rid of the ball more quickly than he wants.
Smith might have been expecting help from Humphrey on the snap — but it is still a rare negative rep for the right guard.
Backup Andrew Wylie — nominally a guard — has done an admirable job stepping in to start at right tackle in place of Lucas Niang. Offensive line coach Andy Heck preaches versatility among his offensive linemen — and No. 77 is buying in.
I’d like to see Wylie keep moving his feet, he stops them on contact and you see the result pic.twitter.com/KaKFhUzsmu— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) December 10, 2021
Still, the third-string lineman is bound to put some bad things on tape — and here is one of them. Upon contact, he stops moving his feet — allowing the defender to push him back and close Edwards-Helaire’s running lane.
After highlighting his bad pass-protection rep, let’s Smith give a serious shoutout for a terrific running play.
I present No. 65, Trey Smith pic.twitter.com/vUILkzHCYd— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) December 10, 2021
Just look at the movement Smith creates all by himself. At the end, he gets some help as running back Darrel Williams gets in behind, helping to finish the play. A reply to this tweet shows another angle on the play.
The bottom line
Now in sole possession of first place in the AFC West, the Chiefs now have another division matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. The offensive line will need to build upon its performance against Denver. There are things to improve — but Las Vegas struggles to stop the run, which should allow Kansas City to have a good day on the ground.