So far this season, it hasn’t been an easy job for the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive tackles. They have faced some of the league’s best pass rushers.
Over seven games, the Chiefs have faced four of the NFL’s top 10 sack leaders: Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers, Von Miller of the Buffalo Bills, Khalil Mack of the Los Angeles Chargers and Maxx Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders.
“We’ve had some great challenges,” allowed Kansas City offensive line coach Andy Heck on Thursday. “The challenges continue — when you talk about the types of defensive lines and the types of [pass] rushers that we [will] face.”
This helps explain why the Chiefs' offensive line has allowed pressure on 23.2% of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ pass attempts. 12 of those pressures resulted in sacks.
And remember: that sack number would surely be higher if scrambling away from a pass rusher wasn’t second nature for Mahomes.
Heck said that Kansas City’s offensive linemen — specifically, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and right tackle Andrew Wylie — are continuing to improve on the hundreds of little details that go into what they do.
“I love both these players,” declared Heck, “They both have their different strengths. Andrew’s a tenacious guy; he uses nice technique. Orlando’s got that great length and terrific leadership in our room. He’s a football-smart guy. Those guys have things they’re working on every day.”
In particular, Heck said that Brown has shown a lot of growth from last season.
“[He’s] learning these various angles in the run game,” noted the coach. “You know, that’s one of the beautiful things about football. It’s not like riding a bike — where once you got it, you got it forever. You’ve got to continue with it.”
Heck also admitted that over the first part of the season, Brown has been playing catch-up after missing much of the offseason program while he and the team were trying to negotiate a new contract. Brown eventually signed his franchise tag and rejoined the team — but by that time, he had already missed OTAs and part of training camp.
“While guys were training here, he was doing his work,” said Heck. “But there’s something to be said for getting in there [and] seeing the looks you need to see. We’re pretty well into the season here — and so I’m seeing him kind of get to where he’s caught up with everybody else.”
Meanwhile, it has mostly been a losing effort for Wylie. He’s been battling admirably — trying to keep the wolves at bay — but in 316 passing snaps, he has conceded six sacks and 20 pressures. So far in 2022, Pro Football Focus has given Wylie a pass-blocking grade of 53.4, and an overall grade of just 59.7.
But all hope is not lost — because reinforcements might be on the way. Tackle Lucas Niang returned to the practice field this week after months of rehabbing a torn patellar tendon. In 2021, he played over 500 snaps as Kansas City’s right tackle.
“Lucas has been working really hard with our training staff,” said Heck. “[He’s] doing all the right things. Yesterday it was the first time we got to see him out there on the field. It was a great start for him. I’m excited to see how he progresses.”
Regardless of who will eventually be starting, Heck said that his guys understand their main job.
“[They] just got to stay between our guy and [the pass rusher] — for as long as it takes.”