There were always going to be growing pains for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. as he transitioned from the downhill, run-heavy offense of the Baltimore Ravens to the more finesse, pass-heavy attack of the Kansas City Chiefs this season. That has come to fruition, as Brown’s run-blocking snaps look dominant — while the pass-blocking snaps have generally been rougher.
However, Brown’s commitment to excelling in that position has definitely led to improvement: in the six-game win streak, Brown has only allowed one sack and one quarterback hit. According to PFF, in the first seven games of the season, Brown gave up 10 quarterback hits and three sacks.
It’s no coincidence that Brown’s growth has come with a feeling of him being more settled into the offense, as he expressed in his press conference on Tuesday.
“I feel a lot more comfortable, especially within the system, especially with Patrick [Mahomes],” Brown shared with reporters. “I feel like we’re playing really well as a unit. I feel like we’ve been a little bit more productive, especially last week offensively, and I just feel like it’s a testament to the coaches putting us in great position and us executing.”
Head coach Andy Reid sees the improvement in the young left tackle.
“He is playing well,” Reid acknowledged with reporters in his Tuesday press conference. “He’s more familiar with what we’re doing, more familiar with the fundamentals and techniques that Coach Heck is teaching, and he’s bought into all that. He’s got a great attitude, he’s very, very smart and he loves to play the game. All that adds up to where he’s at today.”
It’s not just talk: Brown is genuinely grateful for the position the coaching staff has put him in. Just like quarterbacks or wide receivers dream of playing in a pass-heavy system, offensive tackles dream of being the blindside protector of a quarterback — being trusted to handle an explosive pass rusher on an island.
That’s what the Chiefs are asking Brown to continually become, and he truly embraces the task at hand.
“It’s challenged me a lot, and I absolutely love it,” Brown admitted. “As someone aspired to play in this league, these are the types of systems that you aspire to be in. You aspire to be in these one-on-one situations as often as possible, and that was one of the main reasons for me as I’m a left tackle is being in a system like this, having the opportunity to prove myself, showing what I’m capable of. It’s very challenging, very different from what I experienced in Baltimore, especially the amount of passing attempts that we have, but I absolutely love it.”
A different tune could be sung if Brown was going through this transition on a losing team — like the Chiefs were for the first seven games of the year. However, this big-career transition isn’t the only thing Brown enjoys about Kansas City.
Brown’s had his fair share of blocks ending with his defender on the turf, but not as often as his rookie teammates.
“It’s been a lot of run playing with this group of guys, especially the finishes (right guard) Trey [Smith] and (center) Creed [Humphrey] have,” Brown marveled. “The juice and the energy they play with. I feel like the communication has only gotten better, our execution has gotten better, our fundamentals and consistency has gotten better.”
Even at 25 years old, Brown is one of only two non-rookies along the first-team offensive line — meaning he has to be more of a leader than someone his age typically would be; 25 years old is very young for the average NFL offensive line.
Part of his leadership includes emphasizing the little things with the rest of the group, and being on the same page with those all the time.
“We’re rooting each other on,” began Brown. “We really take a lot of pride in presentation as a group up front. Whether that be jogging to the line of scrimmage, chasing the ball, finishing blocks, helping our running backs, wide receivers or quarterback up. Whatever the deal is.”
The little things have led to the offensive line becoming one of the best run-blocking units in the league right now — and in the long-term, one of the best unit’s period.
Brown’s play is putting himself in a position to earn that long-term deal and be the Chiefs’ answer at left tackle for the prime of Patrick Mahomes’ career — but the season isn’t done, and neither is the necessary work.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Brown, it’s that he’ll enjoy the grind of improving during the last stretch of the season and into the playoffs.