How Chiefs’ Jawaan Taylor & his coaches have addressed penalty issue: ‘We can fix it’

Joe Camporeale/Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor stood in front of reporters on Thursday and said he’s fine mentally following a five-penalty performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The excessive flags, however, are something he says can’t happen again.

“Just been working on it this week to clean it up,” Taylor said. “I definitely know that’s a problem that needs to be fixed.”

Taylor had wide-ranging transgressions during the Chiefs’ 17-9 road win last week. He was whistled for two false starts, two holding penalties and also was penalized for lining up in the backfield before the snap.

It culminated in a rare feat. The last time any NFL player had five penalties in a game was 2016 — an occurrence that’s happened just twice in the last 10 seasons.

When asked about Taylor this week, Chiefs coach Andy Reid focused most on the pre-snap infractions. The false starts and illegal formation penalties, Reid indicated, were the most controllable ones.

“He works hard on getting off the snap on time. He does that,” Reid said Wednesday. “But he’s just going to have to tame that down just a little bit where it doesn’t get called on him. And that’s just working through it.”

Taylor’s path to this point — he leads the NFL in accepted penalties this season with six — has somewhat strangely been shaped by NBC’s season-opening broadcast.

During that game, analyst Cris Collinsworth spoke frequently about Taylor potentially getting an early start on the snap. Taylor spoke before the opener about how he works hard to perfectly time his kick-step, and even Thursday reiterated that what he’s done this season is not different from years past.

Something has changed, though: The NFL’s policing of the rule. A few days after NBC’s broadcast, the NFL sent out training tape to all 32 teams, warning that officials would be monitoring that part of the game closer.

Taylor said he expected extra scrutiny before last week’s game, but that didn’t change the outcome as he received 35 yards in penalties.

Reid expressed Taylor needed to be better moving forward, especially because the team was aware that officials were going to be put on “red alert” after the opener against Detroit.

“It wasn’t like they were off on the calls that they had on him this week. It was the same crew that worked training camp. They could see it there, and they saw it firsthand here,” Reid said on Monday. “So it’s ... they’re gonna call it. Jawaan was aware of that. He knows.”

Now, the question becomes how to correct the technique.

Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy likened Taylor’s pre-snap problems in Week 2 to the team’s pass-dropping issues from Week 1. You want to work on improving, Nagy said, while also not overemphasizing something to the point that it gets in Taylor’s head.

“Jawaan is a really, really good football player. He’s a great person. He wants to be better,” Nagy said. “So the only thing you can possibly do is just continue to keep practicing with the cadence.”

Taylor said remaining poised in-game would be another focus. Reid briefly benched Taylor following his fourth penalty Sunday while attempting to give him a mental break.

“At the end of the day, I’m not here to hurt my team,” Taylor said. “So I just know I’ve got to be better at it (avoiding penalties).”

Reid reiterated this week that Taylor is a “good football player.” The Chiefs coach said the right tackle is naturally quick with his first step, meaning he shouldn’t necessarily have to get off the ball a half-second early.

“He’s strong, so he doesn’t need to do that. He’s a smart kid. We can fix it,” Reid said. “He’s been doing this for a number of years, and he works extremely hard at it. But once you’ve had three of them in a row or so, and they don’t get called (in Game 1), and you have a new crew coming in, they’re gonna have an eye on ya.”

The encouraging part for the Chiefs should be what Taylor has done when not flagged. He ranks first among all NFL offensive linemen, for example, in ESPN’s “Pass Block Win Rate”; that measure indicates he’s held his block on opposing defensive rushers for 2.5 seconds or more on 98% of his pass-block attempts.

Pro Football Focus’ measures paint a similar story. Though Taylor had the Chiefs’ worst overall grade on offense because of the penalties against Jacksonville, he received a 78.6 “pass block” grade, ranking 13th out of 71 NFL tackles last week.

Reid hinted at seeing similar reasons for optimism after watching film, saying Wednesday, “You take the penalties away from 74 ... man, he’s got a really good game.”

Still, when evaluating himself last week, Taylor said the penalties outweighed any other positive things he did.

“That’s first things first. I know that has to be cleaned up,” Taylor said. “Like coaches always say, ‘Nobody is worth a penalty. Nobody is too big to be worth the penalty.’ So make sure I’m fixing that and doing my job.”