Seasoned broadcaster (and former player) Cris Collinsworth has been the voice of big games for many years. NFL fans have become accustomed to his signature “here’s a guy” patter when he discusses a player’s talent or special ability.
But as he called the Kansas City Chiefs’ Week 1 loss to the Detroit Lions, Collinsworth spent a large chunk of his time criticizing Kansas City right tackle Jawaan Taylor’s alignment in relation to the line of scrimmage — and his very quick first step. Collinsworth even went as far as to say that Taylor was lining up as a “slot receiver.”
Taylor has certainly been pushing the envelope when it comes to these rules. After Collinsworth’s primetime criticism, fans and other media members joined in. Then it all seemed to boil over with a report that the league had sent out a video about illegal offensive formations that included Taylor in its examples.
I'm told the NFL plans to crack down on illegal formations from offensive tackles this week.— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) September 14, 2023
The emphasis began by sending out a tape to all 32 teams and the officials, which included examples of Jawaan Taylor and others.https://t.co/n8oV8B0kwA
So during Sunday’s 17-9 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, officials were watching Taylor very carefully. In addition to the pressure the league had placed on its officials, playing against his former team very likely created additional motivation for them; Jaguars’ coaches are certainly familiar with Taylor’s playing style, so in their pregame meeting with officials, they probably emphasized it.
In all, Taylor was penalized five times for false starts, holding and illegal formation. Head coach Andy Reid spoke about it after the game.
“I took him [Jawaan Taylor] out for a couple plays,” said Reid. “Stepped back. This is home — not only home, but also where he played. You know: just [step] back — and let’s get you back out there. He had some big blocks later in the game there; [he] did a nice job finishing.”
Reid took Taylor off the field after two offensive holding calls were called on him in a three- play sequence. Taylor returned on the next drive to finish the game.
“I mean, through social media he knew some of this was going to get called,” explained quarterback Patrick Mahomes after the game. “He’s going to continue to get better and better. They’re cracking down on some of the alignment stuff — but we’re playing football, man... He’ll get closer [to the line of scrimmage] so they don’t call it — and we’ll continue to work on the snap counts. But he’s a great player. He’ll continue to play and get comfortable. And it’s hard — when [you’re] getting picked on a little bit — to keep playing your game, but I have all the confidence in him in the world.”
We have probably seen the worst of this situation. There was a national spotlight on Taylor — and he was playing on their home field of a team that was very familiar with him. Either of those things would have made Sunday’s game difficult for him. Both of them made it nothing less than a perfect storm.
And despite all of this, Taylor has allowed only two pressures this season (according to PFF) — and both of those came against the Lions in Week 1. He’s brought something to Kansas City’s offense that it hasn’t had since the days of Mitchell Schwartz: a “set and forget” right tackle. The Chiefs are rarely having to help Taylor on the right side — and that allows them to send help to the left side, where Donovan Smith is struggling.
I have faith that offensive line coach Andy Heck and Taylor will work out the minor alignment issues — and that it will not be a major problem going forward. Still, because of the focus on him, it’s likely he’ll be penalized again — but it won’t be as bad as it was in Jacksonville.
It’s likely that Taylor isn’t worth the contract the Chiefs gave him — but players acquired in free agency are only rarely worth the contracts they get. Taylor is, however, providing long- term stability to a position that has needed it since 2020.
Yes... Sunday was bad. But Kansas City fans shouldn’t give up on Taylor. His main job is protecting Mahomes — and he’s doing it well.