During his media appearance on Wednesday, Kansas City Chiefs rookie right guard Trey Smith made it clear that even after winning a starting job and playing every offensive snap through three games, he is not yet satisfied.
“[To be] quite frank with you,” declared the former Tennessee Volunteer, “I’ve got a lot that I need to work on from a mental standpoint — especially just being on the same page from a scheme standpoint. From a consistency factor, just being the same player I am when I’m at my most dominant — and getting rid of the negative plays.”
After playing in the Southeastern Conference — against some of college football’s most elite players — Smith has noted a jump in competition.
“The difference in the league is that [when] you look on the field, everybody’s ‘a guy,’” Smith remarked. “That’s why they’re out there. That’s why they’re playing. They’re skilled and specialized players.”
Smith also touched on what is — for him — a unique adjustment: practicing. After blood clots in his lungs cost him part of his sophomore season in 2018, Smith was frequently held out of practice during his last two seasons at Tennessee. Uncertainty about this condition is widely believed to be why Smith — once rated as ESPN’s best high school recruit in the nation — lasted until the 226th pick in April’s draft.
“I would just say — touching on the consistency standpoint — you’ve got to bring it every week in the game,” explained Smith. “But you’ve got to bring it every day in practice — and that’s something I’ve got to do a better job of.
“I went from not practicing — and now I’m practicing every day. Bringing that at a high level — that’s something I have to learn and transition to do.”
Though the team is coming off a second consecutive disappointing (and mistake-prone) loss, Kansas City’s running game was much improved against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Smith credited offensive line coaches Andy Heck and Corey Matthaei — as well as offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy — for bringing out the best in himself and his fellow linemen.
“Coach Heck, Coach Matthaei, coach EB and the offensive staff — they had a great game plan called,” he noted. “We just had to go out there and execute it with the right physical mentality — just finishing people and being the most physical group on the field.
“Just having that mentality: I’m going to finish you every play. I’m going to do my job every play. I’m going to finish between my guy and the ball carrier.”
Behind their much-publicized, all-new offensive line, the Chiefs rushed for 186 yards on Sunday — more than their first two games combined. Smith credited Heck for pushing the linemen in practice to build on their strengths.
“Finishing is something we’ve all done well — but we can take it to another level,” said Smith. “There’s more we can do. If there’s more we can do to help this team, we’re going to find a solution and work to get it.”
While an improved running game is rightly a priority for the Chiefs, Smith is also well aware of the reason the team invested so heavily in the offensive line during the offseason: the nightmare of seeing quarterback Patrick Mahomes run for his life in Super Bowl LV.
“Playing with him has been awesome,” Smith said of Mahomes. “I think the biggest thing is ‘finish.’ He’s a great playmaker. When you have a guy like that, he inspires you to work harder — to keep going harder. For me, that’s something I need to do better.
“He’s going to extend the play. I need to keep driving and sustaining my lineman — keep him off Pat, keep him clean, because we’re going to score with that type of player.”
Smith’s next test will come Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles — with a front four anchored by six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Smith appreciates the challenge.
“We’re facing a very seasoned front,” Smith acknowledged. “Great players up front. It’s going to be a good task — and a good challenge. Working with Coach Matthaei and Coach Heck, they’ll have us prepared for it.
“It’s just another testament to the NFL — [and] how deep and talented everywhere across this league is.”