It Isn’t Time to Worry About the Chiefs’ Pass Protection Yet

There may come a time when hitting the panic button is reasonable, but it isn’t right now.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line is an interesting group.

Following the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign, one that saw quarterback Patrick Mahomes single-handedly attempt to stave off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive front in the Super Bowl, general manager Brett Veach made changes. He got to work immediately and by the time the following season began, Kansas City had a new offensive line featuring the likes of Orlando Brown Jr. (trade), Joe Thuney (free agency), Creed Humphrey (draft) and Trey Smith (draft). Players such as Mike Remmers, Lucas Niang and Andrew Wylie also filtered in throughout the season.

By the end of the year, once the group had some time to build chemistry with Mahomes, the Chiefs’ offensive front was viewed as one of the best in the league. Heck, heading into Week 3 of this season, it checks in at No. 2 on Pro Football Focus‘ offensive line power rankings. The Chiefs have been one of the best — if not the best — run-blocking units in the entire NFL. Pass protection, on the other hand, has been a different story.

As Ben Baldwin (contributor to The Athletic) points out, ESPN’s measure for pass protection may leave some room for interpretation. Even if that’s the case, however, Kansas City’s PFF pass protection grade also ranks among the poorest in the league. There’s no working around that, as major outlets and the eye test alike indicate that the group responsible for keeping Mahomes clean has failed to do that to at least some extent through two games. For a great offensive line, that’s a flaw. 

With that said, a two-game sample size doesn’t doom the Chiefs’ season. It’s far too early to throw in the towel and declare that offensive line a bad pass-blocking unit. That’s just one reason to pump the brakes on the narrative that the time to worry is here and now. 

Both injuries and matchup context must be taken into account here. In Week 1, on top of the entire Chiefs offense simply getting its feet wet again for the first time in a regular-season setting, Mahomes suffered a left wrist injury that left him favoring the ailment throughout the game. A less-than-stellar performance in pass protection there can possibly be (partially) attributed to everyone shaking off some more rust, Mahomes’s injury impacting his pocket presence and also right guard Trey Smith suffering an ankle injury that required him to leave the outing. 

In Week 2, Smith was active but also continued to deal with the ankle injury. Despite having a good game overall, the interior of the Chiefs’ offensive line had a few uncharacteristically bad reps. On the outside, Brown and Wylie going against elite talents such as Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa led to Mahomes being pressured 36% of the time. Neither Brown nor Wylie is a world-beater against normal competition, let alone two of the better edge rushers in the NFL. 

When factoring in sample size noise, injuries and a rough second game against amazing defensive ends, it makes sense that the statistics don’t hold the Chiefs’ pass protection in high regard thus far. There will undoubtedly be additional tests down the road that also lead to failing grades in the eyes of major analytics branches. That doesn’t mean it’s time to slam a hand on the panic button, though. Simply put, there are too many factors at play to make a firm determination in regard to Kansas City’s pass blocking. It’s been underwhelming thus far, but don’t write off the entire unit just yet. Give it a few more weeks instead. 

Conner Christopherson of Arrowhead Report joined me on Wednesday’s Roughing the Kicker podcast to answer mailbag questions from listeners on Twitter. To hear our full conversation on the Chiefs’ offensive line and more, check out the full episode below.

For more Kansas City Chiefs coverage and analysis, be sure to subscribe to the ‘Roughing the Kicker’ podcast. RTK is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you listen to your favorite programs.

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