Grading the Chiefs offensive line play in week three

The Kansas City Chiefs lost their second straight game, falling to 1-2 on the season. While it may seem like the sky is falling, the Chiefs rebuilt offensive line still had a solid game. There is plenty to clean up, but things continue to click for the big men up front.

The sky is falling in Kansas City. The Chiefs are below .500 for the first time in what seems like a very long time and in last place of the AFC West. It’s only been three games, and there are still fourteen to play, but as we can imagine the local media, fans, and of course Twitter has been in full melt-down mode all week.

Many have been citing the obvious of why the team has struggled, but even in defeat, it seems that many people are ignoring the positives, one of which is the Chiefs offensive line.

It wasn’t all perfect and there will be plenty to clean up, but the screen pass below is about as close to perfection as it gets. Great play call, great timing, and of course great blocking.

Orlando Brown Jr. and Joe Thuney both turned in veteran performances and on the play above they blow up the twist game, which allows Mahomes to scramble for the first down.

Mahomes leaving the pocket would turn into the story of the game for the offense, and some of it such as the play above were good, but some were not so good. Mahomes was pressured multiple times, nine coming from Joey Bosas, and was also hit seven times. This is not good, but it is not all the fault of the offensive line. As you can see below the Chargers are playing very unconventional to beat the Chiefs, but it was effective.

Mahomes and the line had their fair share of issues in pass protection, but the Chiefs’ run game was dominant. That is a line I did not think I would ever type much but it was very true on Sunday. As usual Trey Smith used his nasty steak to completely destroy defenders off the ball and physically punish them till the end of the play. Need more convincing, check out the initial movement off the ball. Teams will start to crumble as the season progresses.

The results when Patrick Mahomes is able to step up and throw cleanly from the pocket are remarkable. Brown creates the play by blowing up the left side, but it’s Humphrey that sets his own personal wall for his quarterback to throw from.

The Chiefs had struggled with outside zone the week before against Baltimore, but this week Niang does a good job to pin Bosa inside, Trey eats up the three-technique, finishing him, and it gets Clyde Edwards-Helaire some space to make a nice play. The impressive run blocking helped the Chiefs to 186 yards on the ground, averaging over six yards carry.

So how did it all grade out?

Orlando Brown Jr.

Brown gave up three pressures, but nothing close to a sack in this one. For large parts of the game, he looked dominant and looked very worthy of the first-round draft pick the Chiefs traded to get him. The Chargers tried to take advantage of his size, giving him multiple speed rushers off the edge, but every time he was able to stonewall them. The only area I would like to see him work on is taking better angles in space in the run game, as well as his backside cutoff blocks on zone headed the opposite direction.

Joe Thuney

This game is why KC is paying Joe Thuney a large sum of money, and why he is one of the best in the game. This week Thuney was close to flawless, and he earned the highest grade of any Chiefs linemen this week. Play in and play out the consistency pops off the film. The little things, footwork, timing, physicality, effort, he oozes everything you want in an offensive lineman. A big game for Thuney as he made his impact felt up front all game.

Creed Humphrey

There are times when Creed can look like an All-Pro veteran, and times when he looks like a rookie. That is perfectly fine considering that he is only in his third professional football game. Creed excelled in both run and pass protection this week, showcasing his mauling style of run blocking, along with a very strong anchor in pass protection. He still has some little mistakes to clean up but his career is off to a tremendous start.

Trey Smith

Smith has been outstanding to start his career, but he did run into a “Welcome to the NFL” moment when he gave up a third-down sack to Joey Bosa who aligned as a three-technique in a sub-package on third down. Smith gave up two other pressures, but he responded well in the second half and had some devastating blocks in the run game. For the most part, he was once again solid. His double-team blocks with Creed were generating huge amounts of movement all game, and his blocking at the second level was outstanding. He was once again the most physical player on the field for the Chiefs.

Lucas Niang

Last week against Baltimore, Niang played outstanding, giving up little pressure and dominating in the run game. This week he took a step back against one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. My final grade for Niang wasn’t bad, at 78% he had a solid game and won the majority of his reps. The issue with his game is that he gave up a team-high five pressures, and it was noticeable late in the game on the obvious passing downs. I know many fans were calling for Niang to be given help, but that’s not Andy Reid’s style, and in the long run, it will make Niang better.

Bosa and the Chargers did a good job of speeding him up on the edge, and then a few plays later working to get the inside on him. This created problems because it made Mahomes uncomfortable when he gave up the inside or the edge. That showed later in the game when Niang would make a good block, but Mahomes would still exit the pocket early.

This is something that will need to be ironed out. I thought Niang was good in the run game, and he even showed off some quick powerful hands in pass pro, winning the hand position and hand fight battle multiple times. His game has a long way to go, but he is not far off from where Eric Fisher was at as a rookie in 2013, the last tackle drafted by an Andy Reid-coached team. Niang can learn from this game and get better.