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Question of the Week: Should the Chiefs fully commit to Wanya Morris?

In Green Bay, Kansas City’s third-round rookie got his first significant playing time — and may start against the Bills

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

In this weekly series for Arrowhead Pride, I’ll ask one big question about the Kansas City Chiefs’ season. A week ago, we discussed the team’s selection of Felix Anudike-Uzomah and his struggles to get on the field.

This week, we’re talking about the rookie offensive tackle Wanya Morris.

Should the Chiefs fully commit to Wanya Morris?

In 2023, Kansas City decided to move on from tight tackle Andrew Wylie, replacing him with former Jacksonville Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor — and giving Taylor a four-year, $80 million contract.

The team also decided to part ways with left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. — and after paying Taylor, their options to replace him were limited. There weren’t any flawless options in free agency — and in the draft, it wasn’t likely the team could acquire someone who could start immediately.

So the Chiefs got creative, trading up in the third round and using the 92nd pick to get Oklahoma right tackle Wanya Morris, who had transferred to the Sooners after starting his career at Tennessee. In college, he was known for his powerful run blocking and elite length. While I had a fourth-round grade on Morris, I did like his profile — and I was on board with the pick.

But it would have been asking a lot for him to switch sides and start as a rookie. So Kansas City got some insurance, signing an eight-year NFL veteran who had once protected Tom Brady: former Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith. He received a modest one-year contract worth up to $9 million — but that carried a 2023 cap hit of just $2.8 million.

NFC Championship - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

In 2022, Smith’s play had declined. He had allowed six sacks and 35 pressures — and committing 13 penalties. Some of this could have been explained by the hyperextended elbow he fought through all season — but it did allow the Chiefs to sign him at a reduced cost.

Kansas City hoped Smith’s performance would be closer to his well-above-average seasons prior to 2022. He wouldn't need to be a star — but if he could be at least an average player on the left, having Taylor as a pillar on the right would be enough for the offensive line to remain one of the league’s best.

And through the season’s first seven games, I would argue that Smith played as well as anyone could have hoped. While he had his issues with penalties, he held up surprisingly well in pass protection — even better than Brown in 2022. His run blocking wasn’t great, but the Chiefs were getting a solid return on their investment.

Starting in Week 8’s game against the Denver Broncos, however, there was a noticeable dip in his play. The film revealed that his run blocking had suddenly become a big negative; he was unable to get any front-side push, allowing consistent penetration into the backfield. The Chiefs weren’t comfortable using Smith as a puller — and he was struggling to reach linebackers or double-team a defensive tackle.

Even worse, Smith’s pass protection eroded. He started leaning more, using poor technique that allowed defensive ends to burn him around the corner. Smith was also consistently losing on his inside shoulder by oversetting and giving up too much space. Even on basic stunts and pressures, Smith was doing a poor job recognizing them — and communicating with left guard Joe Thuney.

Unfortunately, this continued for the next four games; Smith just didn’t seem like himself. Then in Sunday’s 27-19 loss to the Green Bay Packers, he left the game — apparently because of the neck injury for which he had been listed on the injury report during the last two weeks.

Morris stepped in at left tackle — and as our Caleb James has reported, he played surprisingly well in 69% of the offensive snaps. From my perspective, I thought Morris acquitted himself well. The sack he gave up in the red zone was a bad moment — but after that, I thought he played almost flawlessly.

Kansas City Chiefs v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

With Morris on the field, the biggest improvement was in run blocking. The rookie showed way more power than Smith — which allowed the Chiefs to run more gap-scheme runs — and he did better on zone runs, too. He flashed his quickness, length and power — while also displaying football IQ and the awareness to sight-adjust on blocks when necessary.

Following Morris’ strong debut, we have to wonder: is it time to explore playing him more? If Smith’s declined play has been due to an injury, should the team sit him so he can get healthy? (On Wednesday, Smith’s neck injury caused him to miss practice for the first time). If his health is okay — but his play continues to be shaky — should the team see what they have in Morris?

Over the long term, Kansas City has a real investment in Morris — while Smith’s contract expires after 2023. So while it makes sense to see what Morris can do, that decision could come with short-term consequences. If Morris struggles as a starter, can the Chiefs afford that? With the postseason on the horizon, can Kansas City allow him to go through growing pains?

It’s not fun to bring it up, but it’s a fact: one hit to quarterback Patrick Mahomes could end the Chiefs’ season. While Smith has struggled recently, he does have years of starting experience — and a Super Bowl ring. Still, the team needs to see Morris play. There is a very real chance Kansas City go into the offseason with a long list of needs — one that might be impossible to fulfill in one offseason. If the Chiefs have something in Morris, it would be much better to have that information before the offseason begins.

That might sound drastic — but this decision could end up altering the franchise. If Mahomes suffers a serious injury after it is made, it will be seen as a major indictment of the front office — both now and in the years to come. Let’s hope the team makes the right call.

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