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Against Bills, the Chiefs’ Wanya Morris looked the part at left tackle

Although Kansas City lost Sunday’s game against Buffalo, the play of their rookie tackle was a bright spot.

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

While Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills was a major disappointment for the Kansas City Chiefs, there were few positives in the game — one of which was the performance of rookie left tackle Wanya Morris, who was making his first NFL start by filling in for injured starter Donovan Smith.

The Bills’ veteran pass rushers could have caused Morris a lot of problems. But the rookie trusted his coaching and fundamentals — and played nasty throughout the game.

Grading out

Just as I did when he stepped in for Smith in Week 13 against the Green Bay Packers, I graded every one of Morris’ snaps. He did not disappoint.

Morris was good in both the running game and passing game, winning 84% of his snaps. Considering that he had help from chip blocks on only seven passing plays, this is even more impressive. He won 21 solo pass-blocking snaps.

When evaluating offensive linemen, it is one thing to do your job. It is another to make a difference. So I consider impact blocks to be a key factor. These include pancakes, blitz pickups, key blocks in space or any other outstanding effort. Morris had six of these.

While he did allow four pressures (and three quarterback hits) it was against a seasoned defensive line; it was far from a disappointment. Morris still has areas in which he can improve — but against the Bills, he played his tail off.

Pass protection

Morris had a good day protecting the passer. On most of the seven plays where the Chiefs’ running backs stepped in to lend a hand, he didn’t really need the help.

On this play, the Bills’ Von Miller is lined up across from Morris — and after examining the situation, Jerick McKinnon moves on. Morris stays patient in his vertical set while Miller spends four steps finding the right approach. Miller throws his hands — but Morris times his strike perfectly, landing a shot. Miller then tries to work around, but Morris’ strong grip (and strong anchor) keeps the veteran edge rusher out of the play.

Morris has been good at picking up twists — and that trend continued on Sunday.

On this rep, the Bills have a wide 5-technique and a wide-9 on the outside — so Travis Kelce is in to help. On the snap, the 5-tech blasts into the B-gap, while the wide-9 comes around to loop. Morris stays tight in his vertical pass set, firing a hand against the 5-tech. As the looper makes his way around, Morris takes over the 5-tech while Thuney and Humphrey take care of the looper.

Morris was good in the traditional passing game, but he made an impact block in the run-action passing game that helped set up a big gain.

The Chiefs have a run-action pass called out of a power look. Morris is responsible for the B-gap on this play — and on cue, the Bills’ defender rushes the gap. Morris is ready for the blitz, allowing him to pick up on the play and help quarterback Patrick Mahomes to roll out and complete a pass downfield.

Morris has been criticized for a specific play from Sunday’s game — one in which Miller sacked Mahomes.

As we see here, Morris is in a solo blocking situation against Miller. Out of his set, Morris once again stays vertical and lands his hands inside on Miller, gaining leverage. Miller keeps working up the arc, and Morris fights for as long as he can.

Mahomes steps up in the pocket, but cannot find anyone downfield. To avoid a hold, Morris eventually has to let go of Miller — and after nearly five seconds, Miller takes Mahomes down.

This sack should not count against Morris. He protected the quarterback for more than four seconds — using good technique — and avoided a penalty.

Run blocking

While Morris’ pass blocking drew all the attention, he put in a strong performance as a run blocker, too.

On this snap, Morris showcases his ability to block in space, flattening a defensive back on an outside zone look. The edge rusher crashes inside, giving Morris the green light to climb to the second level and inflict pain upon a smaller player.

Some of the best aspects of Morris’ game are the effort and nasty demeanor he brings to every rep.

Here — deep in the red zone — Kansas City wants to pound the ball on third down. The team calls a zone run on the left, in which Morris collides with the defensive end. He fires his hands — attempting to work under the edge rusher’s pads — but is met with a hand to the face that officials don’t notice. So Morris works through it — and once McKinnon makes his cut, Morris goes big with his left hand and throttles the edge, twisting and contorting him however he likes. As McKinnon fights his way into the end zone, Morris continues to drive his man — eventually getting in on pushing the pile.

This kind of effort is one of the things that distinguished Morris in college — but in the NFL, his technical improvement is what sets him apart.

The bottom line

While the Chiefs lost Sunday’s matchup, Morris’ performance was definitely a silver lining. In the biggest moments, Kansas City was able to trust him as a solo blocker — so much so that the team ran multiple plays out of empty formations, which gave the rookie little help from chip blocks.

Sunday’s sour performance may end up being the launching pad for the team’s next franchise tackle.

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