Chiefs Film Room: The Fall of Donald Stephenson


Wayyy back in Week 1, I did a film study on then newly-minted left tackle, Donald Stephenson. In that review, I applauded Stephenson for his play and felt as though Andy Reid was right to have confidence in his ability to hold down the left side of this line. Oh how things have changed in these past five weeks.

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While the Kansas City offensive line as a whole has had a major hand in the Chiefs finding themselves at the bottom of the standings, Donald Stephenson has looked especially bad these past few games. Out of all the poor performances, none stuck out more so than the one this past weekend against the Vikings. To make matters worse, the Vikings didn’t even have their stud defensive end, Everson Griffen, and were forced into starting a third-round rookie (albeit one whose arms resemble that of Popeye’s)!

Watching the tape of Stephenson against the Vikings was brutal: he got beat by simple speed rushes multiple times even though his biggest asset is his quickness, he got overpowered by defensive ends, tackles, and linebackers, and worst of all, he looked completely lethargic on a handful of plays. Thanks to the magic of GIFs, we’re going to relive multiple plays where Stephenson made a case (a quite compelling one at that) for not being the left tackle of the future.

WARNING: The following will likely exasperate any and all Kansas City Chiefs fans . . .

On this play, Stephenson (lineman at the bottom of the screen) gets blown by with a speed rush from the aforementioned Vikings rookie. By the time Stephenson got a hand on the defender, it was way too late to slow him down or drive him passed the QB. When your QB doesn’t even have time to set his feet after completing his dropback, you have very little chance of fielding a potent offense. Throw in the fact that the right guard got abused as well on this play, and you have a pretty good summary of the 2015 Chiefs offensive line play thus far.

Is it me, or did Stephenson get beat on the exact same move by two different rushers? On both plays, the defender set Stephenson up outside then cut back inside to get to the quarterback. I’m no expert in evaluating offensive linemen, but Stephenson’s footwork on both those plays doesn’t look like starting left tackle material.  Oh, did I mention the fact these plays happened just three snaps apart!? That’s pretty rough.

After watching those three plays, one thing should standout: Stephenson’s lack of strength is getting exposed by defenders – in the middle GIF he’s getting pushed back by a rookie linebacker! This is something I mentioned in my Week 1 film review, but he was able to overcome it against Houston by being quick off the snap and getting his hands on defenders early. Stephenson did neither of these things against the Vikings and got abused.

Of the three plays above, the one that trouble’s me the most is bottom one. Even though the play was a successful one, look how Stephenson is getting driven back into his QB’s lap. His inability to re-anchor when engaged with a defender forced Alex Smith to either rush his delivery or scramble out of the pocket on multiple occasions.

And finally we come to the play that cost us any shot of winning the game. First, since when did run blocking involve trying to put your shoulder into a guy rather than get your hands on him? Doesn’t seem like the most effective technique. Second, why did Stephenson reach towards the ball when he was scrambling to recover from his missed block?? Look at it from this angle:

Can somebody please tell me what Stephenson was doing with his left hand! That looks like a textbook punch NFL defenses use when a ball carrier is tied up. So in summary, it wasn’t enough for Stephenson to miss a key block on the play, he had to force a turnover as well…

If the Chiefs have any plans of improving their offense this season, Stephenson cannot remain at left tackle. At this point, I think the only option is to move Eric Fisher, currently our best lineman, back to the left side and bring Jeff Allen in at right tackle. Now I’m not saying these changes will suddenly morph this line into a top five unit, but Andy Reid has to try something, otherwise there are going be a lot more 10 point performances for the Chiefs this season.