The margin for error in an NFL game is small for every player who steps on the field, especially for offensive tackles. It's a thankless job: the fewer times a tackle is mentioned throughout a game, the better.
Singled out and scrutinized on a play-by-play basis, the broadcast team relentlessly picked on Taylor for his alignment — deeper than usual for a penalty — as well as his tendency to leave the line of scrimmage early on passing plays.
Players finding ways to push the rules to the absolute limit to gain advantages is hardly new in football. For something as small as snap timing and alignment shifting based on down and distance, it seemed excessively critical to pounce on Taylor.
The NFL laid down the law following the game, announcing they would be cracking down on violators of both rules the following weeks. They might have well just announced they would be putting a magnifying glass on Jawaan Taylor.
Taylor was called for five penalties in the game: two holds, two false starts and an illegal alignment call. After the second holding call, Taylor was "benched" for the following two plays. He would return the next drive and play the rest of the game.
It would be easy to assume that a player flagged five times would have had a horrible game overall, but, in this case, Taylor played exceptionally.
The Chiefs threw the ball over 40 times, and in true drop-back one-on-one situations (or "island blocks"), Taylor shined.
Jawaan Taylor pass protection breakdown:— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) September 19, 2023
True wins: 25 island wins in 29 true pass plays
(Including the holding call)
Given help via chip blocks on 6 plays
1 pressure allowed
Cleanup the penalties and this is exaclty what the Chiefs have needed at OT.
Allowing only one pressure, Taylor shut down the Jaguars' pass-rush combination of Josh Allen and Travon Walker. His steady performance all came while having to deliberately think about where he would line up play in and play out, all while altering how quickly he left the line of scrimmage.
Consistency in pass protection is the strength of Taylor's game, and he put it on display against his former teammates.
Taylor absorbs the force from Walker, sinks his hips and does a good job to win the leverage battle. I like the way he fights to reset the inside hand and stays firm to not give up any ground. pic.twitter.com/AUJfJuXBph— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) September 19, 2023
Walker fires off the snap and looks to use a power move on Taylor. Sinking his hips and popping his feet into the ground, Taylor starts to set his anchor, thwarting the bull rush. He then resets his hands to the inside and drives Walker up the field.
This play was the norm for Taylor for most of the game — quick feet, a strong anchor and crafty hands on repeat for snap after snap.
Taylor found a few chances to "say hello" to a few of his old teammates.
It's a shame the penalties will be all anyone takes away from this game for Jawaan Taylor. He played a good overall game and was crisp in pass pro. Jags attempt to run a T/E stunt, but Taylor sniffs it out and slams the DT to the ground. pic.twitter.com/LgpLgazG22— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) September 19, 2023
The Jaguars defensive line attempts to run a twist game using speed rushers, looking to bring quicker rushers from different angles to attack Patrick Mahomes.
Taylor and Trey Smith play the twisted game perfectly, with Taylor latching onto the inside rusher once his man loops around to go inside.
The inside penetrating pass rusher tries to come in low, but Taylor stops him in his tracks, and one smooth motion slings him into the dirt. Mahomes has enough time to fire a deep ball, which Justin Watson hauled in.
Overcoming and finishing
After Taylor was sent to the bench for two plays, he came back in and battled back until the end of the game. The Chiefs' play-calling aided him with a few chips in pass protection to help him adjust to getting off the snap with different timing, as well as help him regain confidence.
As the game came down to the final moments, Taylor had to regain his confidence and would have a key block on a third-down conversion.
87 and 1 both are on routes so Taylor is all alone. Good job to help Smith secure the 4tech before turning his attention to the edge rusher. The Jags run a twist game, and he secures the outside shoulder of the penetrator as Smith takes the looper. Mahomes has time to extend. pic.twitter.com/LwFy0XEMKH— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) September 19, 2023
Walker is lined up wide, while there is a head-up 4-technique playing over Taylor. The Chiefs slide protection is going to the left side, meaning that Taylor and Smith will be responsible for the 4-technique and Walker out wide.
On the snap, Taylor first stabs and helps Smith secure the 4-technique, then turns his attention to Walker off the edge.
Walker bluffs an outside rush but then quickly attempts to loop back inside while the 4-technique attempts to continue his rush vertically in the B-gap.
Taylor and Smith play the twist again, and Taylor stops the B-gap penetrator in his steps and then presses him into the gap. The lack of contain on the right end of the line gives Mahomes room to scramble and make a play with his legs.
Mahomes found Skyy Moore deep, and after one more first down, the Chiefs would win the game. Taylor overcame adversity and made the key block that would allow the Chiefs MVP to work his magic.
The bottom line
If a wide receiver runs five bad routes, nobody will notice at the moment. If a quarterback misses a few reads, he will be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to continue. A defensive lineman can play 20 bad snaps in a row, but if he finishes the game with just one sack, it is considered a successful game.
An offensive lineman — and more specifically, a tackle — will never be so lucky.
The entire Chiefs offense played a putrid, undisciplined game, but because of his penalty issues, Taylor became the lightning rod for the unit. Ironically Taylor was perhaps the most consistent player on the field when not called for a penalty.
All eyes will be on him every game for the rest of the season, and given the Kansas City media's— and fanbase's— tendency to scrutinize the more highly-paid players on the roster, he will be fighting an uphill battle.
If he can adjust his game to comply with the new enforcement of pre-snap alignment penalties as well as deliberately leave his stance more in line with the rest of the line, it is likely he will finish the season as one of the best right tackles in the NFL.