Orlando Brown Jr. Struggles in Chiefs Debut

Kansas City Chiefs OT Orlando Brown Jr.
Kansas City Chiefs OT Orlando Brown Jr.
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

There aren't a lot of rules for the Word of Muth column, but one I have always stuck to is that when two teams I'm covering play each other, I write about the winner the following week. To the victor go the spoils. In this case, those spoils are about 1,000 words on offensive line footwork.

If you have read this column over the years you know that pretty much everything we look back at is from the end zone view of coaches' tape. Due to some changes on NFL Game Pass that's not possible for the time being. I assure you, I am more annoyed by it than you are, but we just have to make the best of this situation.

Before we get to some specific examples, I did want to touch on the Kansas City line overall. In general, I thought the interior line was pretty good, and the tackles were pretty bad. Joe Thuney probably played the best. With the exception of a cheap hold that didn't affect the play but was a fine call, I thought he was rock-solid all game. Orlando Brown Jr. played the worst for Kansas City, so as far as the two big offseason acquisitions go, it was a mixed bag.

This is the last meaningful snap the Chiefs offense had on Sunday. They were trying to pick up a first down to ice the game without having to give the ball back to Cleveland, but obviously they were forced to punt after this sack. It's never good when both defensive ends meet in the middle at your quarterback. This is an extreme, but it does highlight the poor tackle play Kansas City saw on Sunday.

Because of where the camera is set up, we have a much better idea of what went on with Brown (57) at left tackle. The pass set is just bad. Look at his second step with his left foot. He doesn't get any depth and steps right back underneath himself. At that point Brown has no choice but to try to turn and run Myles Garrett (95) by Patrick Mahomes, which he doesn't come close to accomplishing. This play was over as soon as Brown failed to gain any ground on that second kick.

Right tackle Lucas Niang (67) has a better set initially, but he goes to turn and run too early. Notice how he only gets two and half kicks before he tries to turn his hips and run the defensive end by. That's just not enough depth if your quarterback is going to drop to a full 10 yards. Jadeveon Clowney never has to run off his path and gets to Mahomes almost as fast as Garrett did. The quarterback has no chance here.

Even on the touchdowns, Brown didn't look right. In the previous play we highlighted how Brown false-stepped on his second kick or third overall step. Here, he immediately steps underneath himself as soon as the ball is snapped. You just can't do that at left tackle and expect to block anyone in the NFL. Brown seemed to be constantly behind the play throughout the game.

Brown made it very clear he wanted to play left tackle this season, but the early returns are not good. He looks like a guy that is playing an unnatural position. His footwork is all out of whack and it looks ugly.

Even in the run game Brown seemed to have trouble getting his feet to move like he wanted. It's tough to see from the TV cam, but I feel very confident that Brown stepped underneath himself at the snap here as well. As a result, he's late on the backside cutoff block and gives up a tackle for loss.

Footwork is so fundamental to anything you do as an offensive lineman. This importance is multiplied on your first three steps. Think of it this way: you are blocking someone faster, often significantly so, on just about every single play. Your advantage is that you know where the ball is going. So those first steps before the defender knows what's happening are crucial, it's your chance you head them off at the pass. Often times you aren't blocking a man as much as you are a spot. By stepping underneath yourself at the snap, you have thrown away your biggest advantage as an offensive lineman.

The good news for Chiefs fans is this is something that should get better as the season goes along. I don't think Brown has any physical limitations that would make him a worse left tackle than right tackle, he just hasn't had as many reps on that side of the ball. He's going to get plenty of reps on the left side this season and you have to think his footwork will steadily improve.

Before we go, I did want to take a look at the most brilliant play I have seen called in the NFL in a long time. It showed Andy Reid's pure genius as an offensive mind, and frankly as an American. It's just a shame it didn't work.

SHOVEL PASS TO AN OFFENSIVE LINEMAN. I REPEAT: SHOVEL PASS TO AN OFFENSIVE LINEMAN. And you call it on the goal line so it should lead to a big-man touchdown. Mike Remmers lines up as an H-back on the right-hand side and fakes a block before making the grab. Obviously, this didn't work and frankly I may never forgive center Creed Humphrey for robbing Remmers of his touchdown by missing a block. But if Humphrey blocks the defensive tackle, this bad boy is there. Hopefully we see it again in a few months when teams have forgotten it's in the playbook.

Andy, if you're reading this, don't give up on this play. It took Thomas Edison over 1,000 tries to invent the lightbulb, and I think we can all agree that was an idea worth tinkering with just like this play. The theory is sound, stick with it. Please don't kill the dream of the offensive lineman shovel pass.


25 comments, Last at 18 Sep 2021, 11:16pm


You’re back!

I am sure KC will be fine.  They have experience with bad tackle play.

2 Considering that two-thirds…

Considering that two-thirds of the interior line consists of rookies, "pretty good" is a a great outcome.  The Chiefs have a lot of money tied up in big contracts, including Thuney's.  To continue to be successful, they need to find decent players at cheap prices.  If they can get "pretty good" play from a 2nd and 6th round pick (especially the latter) in their first game, that bodes well.

4 Two comments.Obviously, for…

Two comments.

Obviously, for now and always, I will defer to the expertise of the one and only Ben Muth. But, that first gif looks like it's partly a function of Mahomes taking a giant deep drop. I mean, hes taking a three step drop out of shotgun! Maybe it doesn't matter because Brown should know this and plan accordingly, but it feels like doing that invites a rusher to go so wide and deep that you are inherently putting your tackles at a disadvantage because they are by definition not going to be as fast or as nimble as someone like miles Garrett.

The other comment relates to footwork and how it can get all disjointed simply by swapping left to right. Nnamdi asomua made this point about cornerbacks and while it may all sound like excuse making in his case, I believe he was backed up by a chorus of other cornerbacks. I think Richard Sherman also made this point as well.


9 Pretty sure you mean "5 step…

Pretty sure you mean "5 step drop", since... he didn't take 3 steps. But, um... it's 3rd and 10. Why would he drop shorter? The receivers aren't even at 10 yards by the time he hits the drop point! A 5-step shotgun drop (~9-10 yards) isn't exactly abnormal. 

But, that first gif looks like it's partly a function of Mahomes taking a giant deep drop. 

I kinda don't think Mahomes's drop matters: that step under himself means at that point he's off balance, and if Mahomes hadn't dropped as deep, Garrett practically could've just shoved him out of the way. The play would've been screwed anyway, though, because the receivers wouldn't be anywhere near the first-down marker if Mahomes had dropped shallower, and Garrett would already be collapsing the pocket.

15 You don't have to drift…

You don't have to drift ridiculously far in the pocket to buy yourself time for receivers to get downfield.

Man, I'm so confused. First - why do you think it's "ridiculously far"? It's 9 yards. Happens something like 10% of the time. It's a 5-step drop from shotgun. This isn't like, crazy or weird. It's 3rd and 10. You've got to buy time for the QB and receivers.

Second, throw depth is totally correlated with drop depth. Of course if you want to throw deep, you're going to want to drop deep. I mean, sure the QB can scramble around to buy time, but why would you intentionally take yourself off-platform?

I just don't understand why you think Mahomes did anything wrong here. If the LT had properly widened his base and hadn't gotten off-balance he shouldn't've had any problem directing Garrett farther out.

18 Compare it to this play:…

Compare it to this play:

Both are third and longs(3 and 9 vs 3 and 10). Both are out of shotgun. Both are deep shots. 


In that play, the ball is at 26 and half, Manning standing at the 31(distance of around 5 yards) and when he releases the ball on a deep throw, his feet are between the 33 and 34. So basically, he took a 2.5 to 3 step drop to release this deep route. Look at where the pass rushers are when he makes this throw. Even if you don't have Manning's quick decision, he has enough cushion in the pocket to stay there a few moments longer. He can step up to buy more time if he needs to. He absolutely does not need to be in a 5-6 step drop from shotgun to buy his receivers time as this play shows. 

Now for Mahomes

Ball is at the 49, he is standing at the 44(so a 5 yard difference), and when he throws the ball, his feet are between 39 and the 38. That's 5-6 yard difference, or double what Manning took. And look at where the pass rushers are.

This gets to the point I made above; going so deep makes it harder to make those blocks.

Ben, can maybe chime in if he's reading this and set the record straight.



19 I super don't understand…

super don't understand your point. The play with Manning was a 3-step drop from shotgun (7-8 yards total), with an immediate throw to a receiver that was under man coverage straight from the start with the Ravens showing blitz and rushing 6 because they're desperate for a turnover. The Broncos already had that play called straight from the get-go as soon as the Ravens lined up that way.

The play with Mahomes is a 5-step drop (9-10 yards total) from shotgun with multiple receivers going into zone coverage, and zero blitz threat.

With Manning, they were already in FG range and threatening a TD. An incompletion doesn't really help the Ravens much. With Mahomes, they're out of FG range and an incompletion likely forces a punt. So they're playing coverage more. Mahomes can't just take quick drop and throw a back-shoulder ball with 7 guys in coverage!

I just don't get it. Are you criticizing Mahomes for the play call? He's... not the coach?

edit: I should clarify that I do actually think Mahomes dropped a little too deep on that play, but not much. Less than a yard or so. But on that play that wouldn't've done a darn thing, and if I had to guess, Mahomes was probably priming himself for taking off already, because holy cow did the Browns give him a bajillion yards of room. But, I mean, that's a super minor quibble on that play. Mahomes could've been taking a 3-step shotgun drop on that play and he'd still be toast.

20 Let me clarify:Its response…

Let me clarify:

Its response, partially, to this comment: 

"This isn't like, crazy or weird. It's 3rd and 10. You've got to buy time for the QB and receivers."

That implies, therefore, that you need to have a very long drop to get around this issue.  The clip above showed that You absolutely CAN make a deep shot with a 2-3 step drop from shotgun. You don't even have to have Manning's quick trigger(though it helps). He can step up in the pocket or move around in it and buy the time, if necessary. Are you going to make me find a zone coverage play where Manning is able to do this same thing? Because I am pretty sure I can find it, but I don't frankly want to waste my time doing so. 

Maybe I shouldn't have blamed Mahomes. Perhaps the playcall suggested it was by design. But my point really was - its more difficult on the tackles to make blocks when your QB is going to drop back so far. This is the point we really should be debating imo. 

22 Yeah, I just don't agree. A…

Yeah, I just don't agree. A 3-step drop from shotgun going deep is a designed shot play. That's a play where you don't care much if you don't hit it, like when you're up by multiple scores and already in FG range. There's no time for anything to develop. Just a totally different situation.

23 Mahomes is a deep dropper -…

Mahomes is a deep dropper - his signature thing has always been drifting back a mile and then unleashing a bomb, right? 

Orlando’s game has always been flushing the rusher in a wide arc behind the pocket. I had a feeling the two things may be at odds. I’m sure Mahomes will adjust accordingly, though. 

5 I lied and have a third…

I lied and have a third comment.

That touchdown pass to hill completely warps my brain on what to think about it.

The results of the play are awesome and probably only Mahomes is capable of making such a play, but he's throwing across his body deep down the field to a player that is admittedly awesome but has a defender right there to make the play as well. In the best of circumstances traditionally that's a 50-50 ball. Most of the time when other players try it it's an interception waiting to happen.

Maybe it's because it's Mahomes that it's okay or maybe it's because it's Mahome's and Hill that it's okay, but I just have such a hard time reconciling plays like that 

10 That's why it keeps working

Maybe it's because it's Mahomes that it's okay or maybe it's it's because it's mahone's and Hill that it's okay, but I just have such a hard time reconciling plays like that 

This is exactly why it continues to work. Defensive backs are struggling to wrap their heads around it just as hard as you and I are. That throw even being a viable option is still so far outside their expectations that they simply don't account for it.

11 Maybe luck, maybe skill?

Admittedly, I am biased as a Browns fan, but I believe Mahomes got kinda lucky that throwing a "bad" ball there was the best throw he could have made. John Johnson III was all over it and hauling ass to keep up with Tyreek across the field, and if Mahomes had thrown the ball out in front of Tyreek to hit him in stride, Johnson was in a great position to break up the pass, and possibly pick it off. But because Mahomes threw a wobbly ball behind Tyreek, and Tyreek is good at adjusting to these sorts of things, he stopped on a dime, so Johnson, who was wholly focused on keeping up with Tyreek and not daring to look back for the ball, flew past and out of position.

I feel like there was a substantial dose of luck involved, but this kind of thing seems to happen often enough for them that I have to think that there is some kind of skill that Mahomes has where he saw the coverage and instinctively threw behind Tyreek.

6 Lied once again. This is the…

Lied once again. This is the best football content out there in my opinion. 

I wish Matt Bowen would do a series like this on defensive back play like he used to. 

7 Glad you are back, Mr. Muth…

Glad you are back, Mr. Muth.  I loved Brown coming out of college and hoped the Jets would draft him even though he tanked the combine; I had watched a lot of Baker Mayfield's tape and therefore saw how good Brown was in college.  He played left tackle at Oklahoma.  The reason Brown's stock never rose that high for the draft was his lack of quickness.  I didn't see any issues with his footwork, though, and he kept Baker out of trouble even when Baker would move around the pocket in a foolish way.  The one thing Brown does have is tree trunks for arms, and that helped him a lot at Oklahoma, and I imagine that has helped him in the NFL.

However, doesn't Baltimore play a power offensive line style, different than KC?  Couldn't that effect how well Brown does now?

13 Value of Footwork

Given your comment on the value of the first three steps in the article, how is it possible at this level the professional athlete is performing so poorly.  Has he lost mobility and isn't capable anymore or does the coaching at this level not evaluate this part of their performance.  Surely if this is how he performs in practice, the teams own edge rushers would expose the problem.

I guess at this level I expect the fundamentals to be so well ingrained that their shortcomings are either a lack of physical prowess or the finer details of their execution.  Its the same when I read about an NFL receiver who can't do the full route tree. Wouldn't there be other receivers on the team which would be better because they can run all the plays? 

14 good question

This is a great question and I'd love to hear Ben's answer, but I think part of it is that, as Warren Sapp says, "great pressure bursts pipes".

When a pass rush is really getting home, they make the offense look inept. Case in point my Chiefs in the most recent Super Bowl.

Brown is a Pro Bowl RT now playing on the left. I'm sure it's not quite the same as trying to play tennis left-handed, but there is bound to be some muscle memory that he has to re-learn. Meanwhile, Myles Garrett is pretty clearly one of the best pass rushers in the league. If anyone can make Brown look silly, it's Garrett. 

Also - and he acknowledged this after the game - Mahomes has a habit of taking super-deep drops to give his WRs more time to outrun coverage. That stresses your tackles, and he probably will get away with it less now that he doesn't have Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz covering for him.

17 Right

In reply to by murftastic

Mahomes will help the tackles out. He learns from his own mistakes and typically doesn't repeat them. 

16 Mahomes admitted after the…

Mahomes admitted after the game that he was still adjusting to his new tackles, saying he had dropped too deep for the tackles to run the defender by him. He either needed to step up more in the pocket so they would run by, or not drop so deep. 

The other thing I saw was Brown talking about his play "not being good enough" and he will get better. It's just his first game as a Chief, and as a KC fan, the attitude he displayed is perfect - he wants to be a good left tackle and protect Mahomes. With his size and dedication, I think he'll be fine eventually. It may just take a bit more time than we'd like. 

Mahomes erases a lot of errors anyway, because he's a magician. 

24 Mahomes by RAP pressure rate…

Mahomes by RAP pressure rate hasn't been all that bad despite a penchant for he and the offense to go for so many kill shots. That may be a function of having good offensive linemen so far along with ultra awesome skill players. 

Mahomes has flashed way too many good things for me to call him a liability in the future, but I will be curious to see how he adjusts as the talent on offense naturally declines. Hill and Kelce likely won't be at the zenith of their powers in three years and the Chiefs will be drafting late every year from now on. 

All that to say, my natural inclination would be that as those players decline/get replaced by worse players, his drifting will start manifest more negatively. In which case, he either will adjust or make me look stupid when joe stiff is still collecting 50 yard tds with Mahomes playing the same way.

25 Maybe Brown should change…

Maybe Brown should change his jersey number from 57 to 75. Then he can feel like a real OT instead of a flat-footed center.