Following the Chiefs’ 30-12 preseason loss to the Vikings on Saturday, several members of the offensive line noted that their performance was not good enough, a notion Chiefs coach Andy Reid repeated.
In pass protection, the first-string offensive line struggled to pick up stunts and repeatedly allowed the Vikings to collapse the pocket, as they allowed 14 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. In the running game, they got pushed backward far too often and failed to provide much room for tailback Knile Davis, who rushed 10 times for 22 yards.
The latter, to me, is particularly concerning. There’s little excuse for offensive linemen to be regularly getting pushed back on running plays — you know the snap count, you have the advantage, you should get some push.
I asked Reid on Tuesday about the push his team got up front in the running game, and it was clear he wasn’t happy.
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“Yeah, well, there have been some good, there have been some bad,” Reid said. “This past game it wasn’t very good. You guys watch it, but it’s something that we can work on and get better at.
“We’ve had better days. You’re going to have a day here or there where that happens and you’ve got to work through it. In return, I’ve got to give them probably more opportunities than what I gave them last time to figure it out and get it situated.”
This must pain Reid, a former offensive line coach. I get that they haven’t called any of their good plays on offense, but if you think opponents haven’t picked up on their inability to consistently pick up stunts, you’re dead wrong.
Plays like this cannot happen. The communication must be better.
Here are nine other observations from the game:
2. On the run
If the offensive line doesn’t improve, Alex Smith may very well be running for his life this season. Good thing for him, he’s mobile. He repeatedly escaped trouble on Saturday, occasionally turning them into positive plays.
No matter how you feel about Smith as a quarterback, this specific trait within his skill-set should be valued, particularly this season.
3. Shaky Smith
Speaking of Smith, he stood in the pocket and delivered the ball in the face of some serious pressure against the Panthers. He also had a few off-target throws on Saturday that were … unusual, in addition to his two interceptions.
Something to keep an eye on going forward.
4. A glimpse of things to come
Some of you have asked me what I mean when I say Reid is going to have to throw people open. Here’s an example of a play where he did just that:
Just an awesome play call. The linebackers bite on the run, and Smith hits Frankie Hammond over the middle for a nice catch. If the offensive line continues to struggle, and the receiver can’t create more separation, you’ll see Reid try to pull off a bunch of plays like this in 2014.
5. Nasty pancake
For all of the offensive line’s struggles, there were some nice moments. Check out this double-team pancake by Eric Fisher and Jeff Linkenbach (both of whom had their struggles in this game, along with Rodney Hudson and Zach Fulton).
6. Jeff Allen at right tackle
Last bit on the offensive line: Jeff Allen held up pretty well in pass protection, and that wasn’t an accident. Allen played tackle in college and showed a real comfort there — perhaps enough to earn the job until suspended starter Donald Stephenson returns in week five.
“(It’s a) natural position for him,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “The history on him is he was a tackle in college and he’s played that position and he looks good over there ... we’ll continue to work him there and see how he does.”
7. DJ being DJ
There are very few linebackers in the game better at shooting between two blockers than the Chiefs’ Derrick Johnson. He’s not perfect — he’ll occasionally read the play wrong — but when it’s right, it’s dynamite. Check out this third-quarter stop:
8. The art of celebration
It seems Sean Smith has rubbed off a little bit on cornerback Phillip Gaines. Watch Gaines break out Smith’s patented incompletion celebration after this third quarter incompletion:
You probably turned the game off by this point, but late in the fourth quarter, former Mizzou star Dominique Hamilton absolutely blew up a play. Watch the guard (62) pull and Hamilton destroy him:
Hamilton is going to have a hard time making the final 53, but plays like the one above could make him a practice squad candidate.
10. Big-arm Bray
Quarterback Tyler Bray bounced back after a rough start in which he threw an interception directly to a defender because of a communication mixup with receiver Kyle Williams.
Bray showed some life late in the game, when he completed all seven passes on the final drive and found Albert Wilson for a short touchdown. It was a great throw, too.
Bray’s arm could keep him in the league for a while. If he can find a way to become more consistent, the Chiefs could have something. His primary competition for the backup job, Chase Daniel, has proven to be more consistent throughout the preseason, however, so he still has a ways to go.