Cam Erving: The Apology You Didn’t Know You Needed

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We all missed some things watching Cam Erving start at Left Tackle for the Chiefs Sunday against the Raiders.

Whenever a game is completed, whether the Chiefs win or lose, there are always aspects of the game that go unnoticed, are not as valued, or seemingly can be scrutinized the next day.

We all know that Mahomes is the catalyst to this offense and that without him, having a 28 point quarter and blowing the doors off of the Raiders would be impossible. But there are many things that contributed to this win that are missed the first time around simply because they aren’t nearly as flashy as Mahomes throwing a 50-yard bomb for a touchdown off his back foot. 

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Keeping the other franchise off his back is a key part of throwing touchdowns and seeing Eric Fisher have to leave on Sunday during the Chiefs’ first drive left tons of people miserably assuming that Cam Erving was going to get Mahomes hurt. The next day PFF comes out and says Erving was the best pass protection tackle in the NFL in week 2 and no one can believe it. Well, first I am going to dive into that area as well as some of the other things that stood out to me, then I’m going to apologize to a player and challenge him to have his best season ever. 

We turn to Cam Erving, who I thought was going to be the starting left guard at the beginning of the season due, in most part, because of his ability to pass block better than run block. I was wrong, Andrew Wylie took over that spot and has yet to let it go. That made Erving the swing tackle for the Chiefs, basically the first man off the bench due to injury anywhere on the offensive line and from the work we saw in the preseason, we all prayed for the health of Eric Fisher. Come week 2, Fisher has a core muscle injury and was forced to leave the first drive of the game. Enter Cam Erving. Right out of the gate he was beaten on a run play and that set the tone of the day for the fans, but let’s take a look at what actually happened first.

This was Erving’s first play and while it might look bad, when you look closer you can see that he takes a hand up high in his face, which caused him to rear back and allow the defender to beat him. That should have been called against the defender, but it happened so fast that it was likely missed. This is the play that left all the fans with a bad taste in their mouth and a sinking feeling in their gut knowing he was protecting Mahomes’ blind side. But did Erving let it affect his pass protection? Not a bit.

I chose this play as an example, but if you visit my twitter page at D_Harms19 or read the article I wrote on Wednesday you will see a number of clips of Mahomes’ throws and consequently you will also see Erving keeping him clean. I picked this one to show for one reason, he is picking up a stunt, something the Chiefs have struggled to do for a few years now. I talked about this in the offseason and when I evaluated him, he and Fisher seemed to have good chemistry with things like stunts and helping each other out. But maybe it was just Erving that is better at keying on stunts than the rest of the line. This wasn’t a hard one to see coming, mind you, but Erving was exceptional all game in pass protection. You see him ride the DE into the interior of the line, where he hits a wall and then Erving picks up the defender coming around easily. Just doing the small things is where he has excelled and he showed it in this game.

Erving is going to be the starting left tackle for at least the next few weeks and there is no question he needs to improve his run blocking, but if we are being honest, everyone not named Mitch Schwartz needs to do a better job in that area. With the first home game coming up against the Ravens, this might be the week we see some improvement in the run game. Either way, Erving will be tasked with protecting Mahomes’ blind side and if he continues to play with the effort I saw in week two, I think fans will be pleasantly surprised by him.

It’s easy to forget running backs, especially in Andy Reid’s system because he seems to find a way to make whatever back is in the game look good. Damien Williams has been more than just a receiving back since his time as the starter and even though he hasn’t run the ball well to this point, which also falls on the offensive line, he has displayed himself as a true complete back in a way most of you probably didn’t know. We know he’s fast and has great hands and footwork but we see him as a bit of a smaller back, which is just not the case.

In both of these clips, you get to see the not so glamorous part of being a running back; picking up the blitz. It’s one of the hardest things to do in the NFL and especially as a running back. Often times it will be a linebacker that finds his way through the line on the blitz or is schemed to stunt into a huge hole created by the defensive line, as seen in the first clip. The blitzer has built up speed and the back has to absorb it best he can to prevent the sack. Williams does a great job of engaging the stunting backer, attacking low, and allowing Mahomes to get the throw off cleanly. 

The second clip is just one of my favorite plays from the entire game that wasn’t a Mahomes throw. We all know Vontaze Burfict is a dirty player that hits extremely hard and is always looking to hurt someone. Seeing him barreling down on the face of the franchise is not an ideal situation so what does Williams do? He takes him for a little ride and picks him up off the ground entirely. That’s just pure grown man strength from a running back that most would assume isn’t a complete back.

I was excited to see Williams as the full-time starter this year and I still believe that his skillset is the best fit for this offense. But with his knee contusion, it’s possible he won’t be playing on Sunday against the Ravens. The Chiefs will have to rely on a hobbled McCoy if he plays at all, rookie Darwin Thompson, and Darrell Williams. I have tons of faith in these backs but I think the Chiefs could miss Williams’ ability to pick up the blitz against the Ravens, who like to send pressure.

Now we come to my apology. I would like to preface this by saying I need to see more consistency and against teams he doesn’t face twice a year and every year. DeMarcus Robinson had the game of his career on Sunday and I railed on him hard in the offseason because I thought he had so many opportunities last year to step up and didn’t. This was a game I didn’t see coming from him, and I apologize for doubting. Now that we have seen him do it, we are going to expect some type of consistency and production. His big day was accomplished by a few things, and one I didn’t see coming was his route running.

I admit this is a bit of an odd route but at the end of the day you do what you can to create separation and he does that on this route.  His “jerk step” as I am calling it, makes the corner try and get his hands on his, bracing for the slant route but instead Robinson breaks into a go route and creates just enough separation to force the corner to chase him. It’s not easy to get your head around when you’re sprinting to keep up with a receiver and Mahomes throws this ball knowing the corner isn’t going to turn around and trusting in Robinson’s ability to go get the ball. He adjusts well to the ball in the air and then shows off his improved hands on this amazing catch.

This something I think has been missing from the Chiefs, offense, jump balls. They have every other weapon in their arsenal but have never really utilized the jump ball much. Mahomes changes that a bit. He has the utmost faith in his guys to make plays and showed that by throwing a few to the back-shoulder and this one to Robinson. Robinson is by no means a slow guy, but he’s been kind of like the offense’s possession receiver. If he can keep on doing things like this, he’s going to become a true weapon.

This is where you start to see him understanding how he’s being covered and when to break off his route. He swims around the initial contact at the line of scrimmage and then looks to lead the coverage corner deep. He knows the corner is running with him and uses his arm to gauge just how far away he is. When he makes contact, he breaks his route off to the left which has been left wide open by the Raiders. 

This is the kind of nuance and trust his own skills you want to see a receiver starting to develop . He knows Mahomes trusts him and when he starts to get confidence in his routes he will find himself open many, many more times to come. His size and speed have been valuable traits, and now we are hopefully starting to see him put it all together. If he does that, look out NFL because there will be yet another problem for you to worry about in this everlasting gobstopper of an offense.

Taking a closer look at games every week, you start to notice things you otherwise would ignore watching it the first time through. These are just a few of the plays and players I thought were deserving of a closer look by whoever decided to read this. I could be wrong, but they could be keys going into the game against the Ravens. Erving’s pass blocking, missing Williams and having Robinson continue his improvement could make or break the Chiefs. Going into this game I am interested in seeing if Robinson plays up to the level we saw against the Raiders, since that’s the only game he’s ever taken off in that way.

It’s important to see some of the things that slide under the radar, it might open your eyes up while you’re watching in the future and see something you may not have thought you would have before. Or not. That’s totally fine; I’m just here to write about this stuff, not give you advice for watching football better. I appreciate you stopping by and I hope you appreciate the little things these players did to help the team win.

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sydenham

Love these articles, keep ‘em coming and thanks!

GermanChief
GermanChief

Good read. I do see Erving a little different now.

gibby-25
gibby-25

Nice read, man. Appreciate the hard work.

Enite

This was a good read.

NobodyLikesDonkys
NobodyLikesDonkys

Great write up as always. Thank you for taking the time to put these together!

MidKan Chiefs Lifer
MidKan Chiefs Lifer

The apology feels a little backhanded but it’s there I guess

alsi2
alsi2

I think someone posted Erving’s PFF ratings against the Raiders as a league high 91 in pass blocking and a miserable 29 in run blocking. I would give him some grace on the uncalled hands to the face penalty, but you don’t get a 29 from just one play. While I agree with trying to be constructive of players, I think it would be helpful to look at all his run block plays to see just how he performed through all those plays, and how the heck he earned a 29 rating on the game for these plays. What is he doing wrong? Can he correct a poor technique or is it a flaw in his strength, balance, etc. (which may also be correctable)? It would be helpful to know if Erving can maintain his pass blocking at this level and bring up his run blocking to at least an adequate level, if not much better than that.

Also, how does Erving’s one game vs the Raiders with such a high pass blocking rating compare to Fish’s pass blocking ratings over the past so many games (not sure how far back to go to be a reasonable sample-size). Obviously, it’s not a good sample size for Erving and one game can end up being an outlier just depending on the circumstances of a particular game. It would be a fascinating story should Erving end up maintaining an elite pass blocking rating while bringing up his run blocking rating to a very high level. I wonder if by the time Fish is ready to return, if Erving were to be logging Pro Bowl worthy performances if Reid might have to stick with Erving and figure out what to do with Fisher. That would be a really interesting (and highly unexpected) scenario. Just a big what-if.

zulu trader
zulu trader

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APtransplant25
APtransplant25

Great review! maybe more sausage blocking with fisher out?

KCChef
KCChef

OT , But ” Grin Food ” None the Less … C&P From AA :

What’s interesting is the second game against the Cardinals.
In that game the Ravens defense was still respectable, only allowing
349 total yards. However, the statistic that stands out is in the
passing game. Kyler Murray,
a rookie quarterback with few weapons on offense and a rookie play
caller and head coach in Kingsbury, actually had himself a pretty nice
day completing 63 percent of his passes for 329 yards.

( Mahommes : ” Hold My Beer … ” : )

legal_kush
legal_kush

??

CHIEFSandSABRES
CHIEFSandSABRES

This was a game I didn’t see coming from him, and I apologize for doubting

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I’m right there with you. I didn’t expect much from him either, but he is showing out.

ChiefsTigersCards
ChiefsTigersCards

The thing that cracks me up is, he’s given very little reason to doubt him since he’s been in KC. This random negativity that formed about him was quite odd

Jdklks
Jdklks

Every time he has a bad play, it’s magnified. Every time he has a good play, no one notices, or if they do, they don’t say anything. It’s kind of the life of an offensive lineman: if you fuck up, people can tell, if you’re doing your job, no one cares.