During the Kansas City Chiefs' 27-19 loss to the Green Bay Packers, rookie tackle Wanya Morris received his first extended playing time. Starting left tackle Donovan Smith was in and out of the lineup with an apparent injury in the first half, and at the start of the second half, Morris saw every snap.
The third-round rookie out of Oklahoma showed some strides that he has made in the early portion of his career and also made his case to be the Chiefs starting left tackle of the future.
I looked at the 42 snaps Morris played in the game. Based on my grading, Morris would have finished the game with a 79% overall grade, which is not bad for a mid-round rookie seeing his first extended period of action.
I graded Wanya Morris for his performance in week 13 against Green Bay.— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) December 5, 2023
27 pass block snaps with 21 wins
15 run block snaps with 12 wins
1 sack allowed
4 impact blocks
Morris received help from chip blocks on six pass-blocking snaps, but the Chiefs players and staff should be expected to provide extra support to a young player at left tackle. As the game progressed and he became more comfortable with the flow, the chip blocks decreased, and he won multiple one-on-one situations.
While his pass blocking was mostly good, Morris made a significant impact with his physicality in the run game.
Improvement in pass-blocking
One of the main issues that I had with the Chiefs drafting Morris was the issues that he had with his hands and lack of striking power while playing at Oklahoma.
Morris slightly oversets this, but not by much. He looks to contact the edge, but he does not bring enough with his initial strike. The edge swats the hands down and penetrates through the B gap. pic.twitter.com/iNqDlyeN5z— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) May 2, 2023
Morris is an athletic and higher-effort player, but his lack of power allowed him to be taken advantage of more than once, and the issues showed in the preseason as well.
Early on in the game, he showed some similar issues.
Morris gives up the sack to Lukas Van Ness. LVN gets hands on first and hands inside causing Morris to lunge. He then works off the play with rip while Morris is beaten around the edge. An example of a play where Morris still needs to improve his hands and striking ability. pic.twitter.com/IwHNgG11l9— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) December 5, 2023
Mahomes dropping deep and scrambling in the pocket does not make this any easier, but from a base level of the player, Morris did not win. Lukas Van Ness wins the initial hand battle by striking inside of Morris's chest and then ripping his way to the outside. Morris tries to recover, but Van Ness can bend the arc and take advantage of Mahomes starting to roll out.
This was an early rep. As the game progressed, Morris became more comfortable and made some in-game adjustments.
Morris improved as the game went on. This time he gets hands-on LVN first with a nice initial strike to cause him to redirect. After that, he uses his reach to push him past the pocket and give Mahomes time to throw. pic.twitter.com/Sy9MhlMAfO— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) December 5, 2023
Morris throws the first strike with his outside hand and causes Van Ness to react by trying to throw a hand swipe. While it works to get the initial handoff, it does not deter Morris from connecting with both hands on the inside shoulder and working Van Ness up the field.
It might not seem like a lot, but this tiny in-game adjustment would give him the advantage over Van Ness for the rest of the game.
Morris was also outstanding at handing off twists and looked very comfortable after a shaky first snap.
Not the best start for Wanya Morris. Little late out of his stance. The chip doesn't help him against the T/E twist. Thuney gets it passed off, but Morris needs to crash down harder on the outside shoulder of the DT. Still, he fights just enough to allow Mahomes time to scramble. pic.twitter.com/MvsoVY8Uj3— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) December 4, 2023
Morris is late out of his stance and did not get a great shot on the penetrating defensive tackle. The defensive tackle penetrates the B-gap and puts pressure on Mahomes.
Later in the game, Morris would be ready for the Packers' twist game.
Impressive rep by Morris. He and Thuney work off the E/T stunt with ease. Morris senses the edge rush inside and passes him off as the DT starts to loop around. He uses the DT's momentum against him and smashes him into the ground. Nasty finish and a high IQ play. pic.twitter.com/FY4wxoPJ2x— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) December 5, 2023
The edge rusher penetrates the B gap, but Morris powers down and can pass off the edge to Thuney with ease. When the defensive tackle loops back around, Morris is ready and uses his momentum against him. As the defensive tackle starts to get ready for contact, Morris slams both hands on his back and crushes him to the ground.
The improvements in his pass-set timing and hand usage were clear to see, and it set the stage for a very solid pass-blocking performance.
Solid pro from Morris here. Patiently waits, and then throws both hands for a two-hand strike. He then locks on and anchors into the ground. He is starting to use his arm length to his advantage. pic.twitter.com/jUlQzVpxL4— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) December 5, 2023
Morris also did not see very much help via chip blocks from running backs or tight ends. I accounted for only six plays where he received help from a chip, but for the most part, he was on the island all by himself.
After adjusting to the game's speed, Morris trusted his coaching and abilities to put together a solid pass-blocking performance.
Paving the way
Morris was very good at run blocking and showed off his physicality and athletic ability while stringing together a near-flawless performance.
Zone for KC, and Morris does a good job with his base block. He forklifts the edges hand and then latches on and drives him down the field. Good pad level and leverage. He gets to the pile after and helps create a surge that nearly crosses the goal line. pic.twitter.com/x1mWoyN5oS— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) December 5, 2023
Morris starts the play with a good bucket step— an angled step to set up the front side of the zone and then wins the handfight battle with a forklift while starting to create leverage and drive the defensive end. He locks on and powers the edge a few yards downfield, and after he disengages, he re-enters the play to help push the pile to move Isiah Pacheco forward for extra yards.
The play got called back due to a penalty, very good play recognition by Morris. The edge looks to loop inside, but Morris instead of chasing works to make sure Thuney can secure the block and then climbs to the second level. Gets a good second-level block on the LB. pic.twitter.com/Ry22a5V1x8— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) December 5, 2023
The Chiefs line up to run zone with a wrinkle, with Kadarius Toney motioning back to take the handoff. The edge over Morris looks to loop inside, so Morris ensures Thuney secures the block before working his way to the second level.
Morris does a nice job at the second level of latching on and driving the middle linebacker, finishing the play with some physicality.
Morris was also good when down-blocking on the play side of counter.
Y counter for KC. Morris and Thueny create a little movement with the run game. Smith kicks out and Pacheco hits the hole with some steam. pic.twitter.com/MJ02BYVScr— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) December 5, 2023
Morris can do a better job of trying to "gallop" down the line and hit the defenders in his hip, but he still does a good job — along with Thuney — to wall off the three-technique and help to create the big hole that Pacheco was able to hit.
The bottom line
Morris proved to be a capable NFL tackle in his first round of extended playing time. After a few early mistakes, he settled in well and showed noticeable improvement from his college film and the preseason.
With no update on Smith — who has been on the injury report for his neck for the last couple of weeks — it is possible that Morris will continue to receive playing time, especially if he can continue to provide quality protection for Mahomes.
It is too early to tell if Morris will be the left tackle of the future, but he is doing all of the right things and making strides with his fundamentals.