Orlando Brown was successful against lackluster Broncos pass rush

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 15: Orlando Brown Jr. #57 of the Kansas City Chiefs gets set against the Los Angeles Chargers at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 15: Orlando Brown Jr. #57 of the Kansas City Chiefs gets set against the Los Angeles Chargers at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. has rightfully been the target of critique from Chiefs fans. But he looked good against the Denver Broncos.

Hindsight is 20/20, and damn was I wrong ahead of the 2022 season. Two big staples of my preseason predictions have been proven wrong in 2022: that Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. would improve in his contract year and the Denver Broncos would field the AFC West’s best pass-rush unit.

On paper, both looked like solid predictions at the time. First, late Kansas City journalist icon Terez Paylor said “the contract year is undefeated,” and Brown was poised to prove that point correct. After turning down a huge contract from the Chiefs, he had more than enough motivation to prove his doubters wrong and get his big payday after the 2022 season.

Secondly, the Broncos added Randy Gregory opposite Bradley Chubb in the offseason. That pairing could have given most offensive tackles fits, and that’s not accounting for Denver’s stout interior defensive line. Again, both seemed pretty plausible until the season got in full swing. Both points were certainly wrong by the time the Chiefs and Broncos played in Week 14 at Denver.

Entering the game, Brown led all offensive tackles with 39 pressures allowed. Sure, his three sacks surrendered were palatable, but fans were (and are still) displeased with Brown’s porous play at times. It is not just speedy pass rushers, but Brown is getting overpowered by defenders as well. This is the guy that many, including people within the team, thought could be the Chiefs’ franchise left tackle. Now, he is a downright liability at points. That was very apparent during the Week 13 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, where Brown gave up a sack, four pressures, and multiple hits on quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Several grass stains on Mahomes’ jersey were from defenders Brown should have been blocking.

If Brown had to face the Broncos’ defense at full might, this past Sunday might have been downright ugly. Luckily for him and the remaining Chiefs offensive linemen, Denver is far from healthy or at full strength. Chubb is now in Miami, Gregory has only appeared in four games this season, and Dre’Mont Jones can only do so much on his own. All told, the Broncos’ pass rush in the season’s second half ranks amongst the league’s least productive. They stayed that way against the Chiefs, with only one sack on Mahomes. It was a highlight from an otherwise uninspiring Kansas City win on Sunday. But, it also netted Brown some praise.

Through 14 games, PFF has given Brown a single-game pass protection grade higher than 80 four times. Seeing him surpass that mark and more is not only rare but questionable. The Chiefs’ biggest highlight against the Broncos started off with Brown getting beat off the edge, easily. Several of Brown’s pass-blocking plays did not pass this eye test, especially considering his low-level competition. However, PFF tacked only one pressure on Brown against the Broncos. That is only the second time he has allowed one or fewer pressures this season, for what it’s worth.

Give credit where credit is due. Brown did not have a bad game against the Broncos. His blocking was key on Mahomes’ touchdown pass to Juju Smith-Schuster, holding up his defender long enough for the score. But, for every one of those plays, there is one where Brown is easily beaten by speed. The inconsistent play is frustrating sure. But, inconsistent play against mediocre-at-best defenders is maddening.

I know the Chiefs and Brown are not hitched with a long-term contract, and Chiefs fans are certainly grateful for that. Brown bet on himself, and he stands to lose that bet.

The Chiefs will equally be losers as well though. There is no clear replacement at left tackle, and right tackle is another issue altogether. Mahomes is the key to Kansas City’s offense, and awful blocking has already cost the Chiefs one Super Bowl. General manager Brett Veach will have to pull more cap magic for Kansas City to have competent offensive tackles in 2023. But, the plan had to be that Brown would stay in Kansas City after 2022. There was little animosity between the two sides after extension talks failed. The reasonable plan would be for both parties to reconvene after the 2022 season, and nail out an extension.

But that all hinged upon Brown improving or at least not getting worse. But he has improbably gotten worse. Much worse. He should have looked like an elite tackle against the woeful Broncos. He could not even accomplish that. Asking Brown to be near-elite is like asking Nathaniel Hackett to coach a winning team. It is just not going to happen.

In the short term, Brown’s Week 14 performance was good. In the long-term, nothing has changed for the upcoming free agent or the Chiefs. The left tackle’s performance will cost Kansas City in the postseason and will remain a question mark in the offseason.

Next. Projecting an extension for JuJu Smith-Schuster. dark