There were many reasons why the hype for the Kansas City Chiefs’ brand new offensive line ballooned the way it did. It was not just because the featured players looked good in meaningless preseason games, and it wasn’t solely about how any combination of five linemen would have been better than the previous.
One reason was the pedigree of the two veterans that were brought in this offseason.
Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. has excellent offensive line play in his name — literally. His father was a starting right tackle for nine seasons in the NFL. As a result, high expectations are placed on Junior. Even while he transitions to the left side from playing right tackle for most of his three NFL seasons, there are sky-high expectations for him right out of the gate in 2021.
So when he surrendered a career-high five pressures — including a quarterback hit and a sack — in Week 1, it was disappointing for Chiefs fans. The encouraging thing is Brown feels the same way you do.
“Flat out — I have to play better,” he told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday. “I’m here to dominate no matter who I’m going against or whatever the circumstance is. I have to play better, and I will.”
It’s the best answer you can expect from a player at that moment. Brown could have mentioned how he’s still adjusting to more of a pass-heavy offense than the run-reliant scheme he ran with the Baltimore Ravens. He could have mentioned the fact that he faced Myles Garrett — one of the best defensive players in the NFL.
Brown instead held himself to a higher standard — and moved forward by explaining how constant the dialogue is between him and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The underlying message is that his play will improve the more communication he has with his signal-caller.
“There’s a ton personally for me as an individual to continue to work on fundamentally,” he began. “Me and Pat are always going to communicate, make sure that me and him are on the same page, make sure the offensive line is on the same page, just making sure he’s as comfortable as possible in the heat of the moment.”
Brown knows the role of an offensive lineman: to make the quarterback’s job as easy as possible.
“As a quarterback, it can be tough when you got people in your face or you have to throw out of different spots,” Brown recognized. “Obviously he’s more than capable of that, but that’s why I’m here, and some of these new guys are here — so he’s a lot more comfortable throwing off of one spot specifically. We’re working on a ton of different things, working and figuring things out — but like I said, I just have to play better flat out.”
The good news is now Brown and the rest of the five-man unit has a full game’s worth of film to review and learn from — rather than a few preseason possessions or practice tape. Brown emphasized the value in that.
“It just gives you a lot more comfortability as far as studying,” Brown explained. “Learning what you can do differently and how to attack certain blocks. When you have a full game, you figure out the rhythm of the game. As an offensive line, one of the most important parts of the position is really just understanding the flow of the game: how the offensive coordinator is going to call the game, what your quarterback is seeing, what your running back is seeing, what your guard is feeling. Being able to play a full game gives you that comfortability of being able to watch film and understand how the flow of the game is going to go.”
If we’ve learned anything about Brown since he arrived in Kansas City, it’s that he’ll indeed be obsessing over the details of his game tape — studying it hard and making the necessary adjustments. You can tell he takes the mental part of the game seriously.
As he works to perfect his craft, he has familiar faces to account for as he and the team turn their attention to Week 2. The Ravens drafted him in the third round and developed him into a two-time Pro Bowler while he was there. He’ll be facing defenders that he practiced against for multiple seasons.
“I definitely think it’s a challenge,” Brown described of the Ravens’ familiarity with his style of play. “They know my strengths and weaknesses. When you’re dealing with a team or a coach like that, obviously there’s things I have to fine tune in my game to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The flip side is true as well: Brown might know more than most on how to stop pass rushers like Calais Campbell or Tyus Bowser.
Brown’s continued progress at the left tackle position won’t be complete by Week 2, even if he does look significantly better. It’s an extended process, but a player like Brown — who will learn from every snap he gets — should get better week by week.
Considering this team’s most important games won’t be played for another three or four months, that's ideal.