It’s safe to say this is not going as the Kansas City Chiefs had hoped.
When the team signed Jawaan Taylor to a rich contract and Donovan Smith to a one-year prove-it deal this offseason, the belief was KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes could potentially have the best offensive line group of his seven-year career.
It certainly hasn’t turned out that way — with the latest evidence coming in the Chiefs’ 21-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.
The most notable miscues were the penalties. Taylor had two false starts, bringing his NFL-leading accepted total to 12; no other individual in the league has had more than nine accepted infractions this season.
Smith, meanwhile, picked up a first-half holding call.
The flags — in particular — are a problem that Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said needs to be rectified.
“We talked about it over the bye week that that’s something, whether it’s holding penalties or false starts, it’s the timing of it,” Nagy said Tuesday. “And it’s unfortunate that we’ve had some of these happen in the second half. It’s stalled some drives.”
Nagy admitted everyone was “grown adults” in that offensive line room, so yelling and screaming at guys wasn’t really the way to solve the issue. Taylor and Smith, however, needed to continue improving in this aspect.
“These guys know that it’s a concern for us. They understand that, and we’re talking about that, and they get it,” Nagy said. “We just have to really lock in and continue to focus on that and reduce (the penalties), so that we don’t get into a third-and-long situation. It’s hard to convert third downs, and when you go from third-and-7 to third-and-12 or third-and-2 to third-and-7, it makes it more difficult.”
Nagy was asked big picture about both Taylor and Smith’s performance in their first year with the Chiefs. The offensive coordinator complimented the two for learning how the Chiefs do things schematically, saying the coaching staff was continuing its work to utilize their strengths in KC’s scheme.
Pro Football Focus’ grades, however, provide some evidence that this has been a more challenging transition than anticipated.
Start with Monday night: The Chiefs’ bottom three graded offensive players against the Eagles, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), were Taylor, Smith and receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. In addition, Smith’s 35.7 “pass block” grade was the lowest of all the 27 NFL tackles who played at least 65 snaps in Week 11.
This wasn’t merely a one-off, though. Among 31 offensive tackles who have played at least 80% of their team’s snaps this season, Smith ranks 27th in PFF grade, while Taylor is 30th. For comparison purposes, former Chiefs tackles Andrew Wylie (14th) and Orlando Brown Jr. (21st) both have fared better with their new respective teams.
Smith, on a one-year deal, might not be as much of a concern for the Chiefs given their investment. However, Taylor is still owed $40 million cash over the next two seasons after agreeing to his deal in March.
Nagy reiterated Tuesday that a good start for the two Chiefs tackles would be eliminating the penalties that have hindered the offense.
“We have to really focus in on that and lock in on that, and they know that,” Nagy said. “But we’ve got to do it.”