Cameron Erving thought about his responsibilities, who and how he would block, entering last weekend’s game at Houston.
But there was one overriding objective as the Chiefs lineman prepared for his first start of the season at right guard in place of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who had suffered a knee injury in the previous game.
“I was stepping in for a guy who has been playing outstanding this entire year,” Erving said. “My goal was to make sure these guys didn’t have to carry me, that I pulled my own weight and played the game the way I know I could.”
The Chiefs beat the Texans 42-34, amassing 450 total yards in improving to 5-0. With Duvernay-Tardif out for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium, Erving will earn another start, Andy Reid said Friday.
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He’ll build on a positive review.
“Cam did well,” offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said. “There were some plays that you saw where maybe technique-wise weren’t the best, but one thing with Cam is you’ll never get a lack of effort, never.”
As for the technique, there could be an explanation. Erving works at several positions on the line, and played them all in two seasons with Cleveland, where he started 17 games.
“I played an OK game; it was a good building block,” Erving said of last weekend’s outing. “Of course there are always things you want to correct. You have to look at it hard and be critical of yourself. I have to correct some things going forward.”
The Chiefs ultimately see Erving as a swing tackle. But after the second play of their Oct. 2 game against Washington, when Duvernay-Tardif was injured, the need was at guard.
Jordan Devey finished the Washington game at the position. Erving, whose playing time this season before last weekend consisted of two snaps, got the start against the Texans.
The game changed dramatically on the Chiefs’ first offensive series, when defensive end J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus went down with season-ending injuries. The Chiefs’ approach, however, didn’t change.
“We had the same mindset,” Erving said.
The line had its best game of the season in pass protection. The Chiefs had allowed at least three sacks in each of their first four games, a total of 16. But against the Texans, quarterback Alex Smith was sacked just once for a one-yard loss.
“The guys collectively did well,” Nagy said. “Granted (Watt and Mercilus) went down early, but at the same time it was a physical game and we were really happy with how the O-line played.”
Erving arrived in Kansas City just before the final preseason game. The Chiefs liked his 6-5, 311-pound frame and traded a 2018 fifth-round pick for Erving, who was the 19th overall selection in 2015 from Florida State.
He was happy for the fresh start, eager to be part of an organization that had been to the playoffs each of the previous two seasons, and leaving one that went 4-28 in that span.
The Chiefs were set across the line, until injuries hit. First, center Mitch Morse was lost to a foot injury (he remains out). Then Duvernay-Tardif went down.
But depth has served the Chiefs well thus far. Now, another big challenge awaits them, against a team Erving knows well from his days in Cleveland.
“These guys are who they are. They’re the Steelers,” Erving said.