Lucas Niang continues to improve — even within this game. In both technique and consistency, he needs improvement when kick-sliding; a bigger tackle must have good footwork to hold up against faster edge rushers.
OL does a decent job of giving Mahomes time, especially Thuney, but Niang’s kick slide has to be better than this though pic.twitter.com/uPqmPzcI3S— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) August 22, 2021
Still... Niang has been impressive thus far — and appears to have a firm hold on the right tackle spot. But in order to remain in the starting lineup, there are points of improvement he needs to address.
Niang needs to keep his feet moving and get his head on the left side to stop penetration. Thuney can’t get to the backer who disrupts the play. Creed Humphrey does his job as he did most of the night pic.twitter.com/2LK3FVpxGC— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) August 22, 2021
Meanwhile, the youth Kansas City has in the trenches bodes well for how good this unit can actually become. Center Creed Humphrey seems to be far more polished than a typical rookie lineman — and fellow rookie Trey Smith plays with the kind of intensity that you expect a starting right guard to have. Smith’s run blocking is his bread and butter — but Chiefs general manager Brett Veach primarily brought him to the team to help protect quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Smith doesn’t stay square and stops his feet, completely turns his back to his gap, stunt doesn’t get picked up and forces Mahomes to dump it off pic.twitter.com/7QEMd3CiHB— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) August 22, 2021
The thing that is encouraging about Smith is that when he does make a mistake, he makes it at 100 miles an hour; even though he may not always be in the right spot, there just doesn’t seem to be any quit in this kid. Communication and reps will go a long way toward improving his pass protection.
4-man slide but Smith sets too far inside and looks like he doesn’t have eyes on the backers, Niang is locked up so this is a really tough pickup but regular season the team is probably more prepared for this blitz pic.twitter.com/VF99cbWGe9— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) August 22, 2021
Orlando Brown Jr.’s acquisition was the gem of the offseason — and you can say similar things about his play. Brown is where he should be, but there is still room for growth. Like Niang, he needs to work on his kick-slide — but recognizing blitzes is another area on which he needs to focus. Still fairly new to left tackle, he needs more time to see the different things that could be thrown at him.
Brown should anticipate something outside after the hard stunt inside. Far from an easy block but I’d like to see 57 at least get hands on him. Niang’s kick slide looking much better here. pic.twitter.com/Wof5UBk0jm— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) August 22, 2021
This blitz was never going to be an easy pickup — but here, Brown looks totally out of place. The way the defenders stunt inside should alert him that he’s likely about to see something from the outside. If he stays more square — so he can see the backer cross his face — he would set himself up for more success. But now, he’ll be able to study the tape, seeing where he went wrong so that he can be better prepared the next time.
The bottom line
It is well-documented how important it was for Veach to invest in the offensive line. So far, the players he brought in are working out quite nicely. Offensive line coach Andy Heck has a successful track record — and even with five new starters, the line looks coached-up. The gelling that has already taken place indicates how good this group could actually be.
Now, there’s just one more preseason game to iron out the wrinkles before the Chiefs face a tough Cleveland Browns front seven in the season opener.