What Andrew Wylie brings to the Washington Commanders
Breaking down what the Commanders are getting in their new offensive lineman.
The Washington Commanders made their first major move of free agency by agreeing to a deal with former Chiefs offensive lineman Andrew Wylie. Wylie went undrafted back in 2017 and bounced around a few different teams in his rookie year before eventually landing with the Chiefs. Kansas City then developed him, initially using him at guard before he shifted outside to tackle a few years ago.
Wylie, listed at 6-foot-5, 304 pounds, will of course have familiarity with Eric Bieniemy’s system and should become an instant starting piece on the Commanders offensive line. I would assume he’s been signed to play right tackle, the position he settled into over the last few years in Kansas City, but he does offer position flexibility and could shift inside too. That means the Commanders could still try Sam Cosmi outside at right tackle, or shift him inside to guard. It also still provides the flexibility to draft a tackle in the first round if they like one there, but also means they can address other needs instead.
So what kind of player are the Commanders getting in Wylie? He’s not necessarily a big mauler like his linemate in Kansas City Orlando Brown. Instead, he’s more agile and relies more on his quickness than his strength. This makes him more of a fit for a zone running team.
Here we have an example of Wylie working on the back side of a zone run play. As the right tackle, his job here is to reach across the face of the defensive tackle aligned in the B gap inside of him and cut him off from the front side of the play. Off the snap, you can see Wylie’s quickness. His first few steps are used to gain ground and get play-side of the defender. By his third step, he’s done such a good job reaching the defender that he’s able to flip his body around and completely seal him off on the back side of the play. Had the front side of the run been blocked better, this could easily have opened up a huge hole in the middle of the defense for the running back to cut into.
Having that type of ability to reach blocks at tackle has a big knock on effect down the line. Many tackles can’t reach that block so easily and thus need a guard to stay with them to help secure the block, but because Wylie can reach that block, the guard inside of him is free to work to the play side and help the center which then has a domino effect all the way down the line.
But it’s not just his ability to reach blocks that stands out in the run game. That athleticism helps him in lots of situations.
This is another zone scheme run to the right, but the Chiefs mix in a twist. The running back starts to the left side of the quarterback, which would typically indicate to the defense that the running back would be working to the right side of the line. The 49ers respond by having a linebacker slide over a few extra steps to the right side of the line, but actually, all this does is take him out of position. Wylie is ultimately responsible for that linebacker, but his first job is to work inside and help the right guard secure his block.
Thanks to the scheme helping pull the linebacker out of position, Wylie knows he can fully commit to helping the right guard before peeling off to account for the linebacker. He quickly shuffles across and lands a strong punch to force the defensive tackle down the line. With that defender now secured by the guard, Wylie peels off and works backwards towards the linebacker. He picks up the block and opens up a big cut back lane for the running back, who hits the hole and works freely into the secondary.
Having that mobility on the offensive line can really help the coaches get creative with designs and set up plays on the edge because they know lineman like Wylie are mobile enough to get out in front of plays like screens and jet sweeps and make critical blocks in space.
Here against the 49ers, the Chiefs call a jet sweep to the right side of the line. The 49ers have aggressive defensive lineman that like to get up the field and attack the quarterback, so they’re vulnerable to this type of scheme. The defensive tackle and defensive end to that side of the line are left unblocked and it’s trusted that the jet sweep receiver will outrun them before they notice what’s happening. By taking away that immediate threat to the offensive line, Wylie is then freed up to get out in front of the jet sweep and block in space.
He does a great job here working into space to be part of the group leading the way for the jet sweep receiver. He spots his fellow offensive lineman struggling to contain a linebacker inside, so Wylie slides over and takes over the block, shoving the linebacker five yards down the field with his initial contact. The linebacker attempts to recompose himself, but Wylie finishes the block nicely, tossing him to the ground as the receiver runs by down the sideline.
It’s not just jet sweeps and screens either. That mobility can be used in a variety of different run schemes, giving the coaching staff multiple options each week.
This clip shows two different examples of Wylie’s mobility in the run game. The first play has Wylie pulling from the right side of the line all the way across to the left side. With extra tight ends on that left side of the line, Wylie has a lot of ground to make up and with the running back getting the hand off from the shotgun, he doesn’t have a lot of time to cover that ground. But Wylie’s mobility shines through as he pulls across the line and picks up the safety filling on the edge, kicking him out to allow his running back a clear path.
The second play of the clip is a crack toss scheme to the right. This time, a tight end motions in and crashes down on the defensive end, allowing Wylie to pull around him to the edge. Wylie’s target on the outside would have likely been a defensive back, however the wide receiver misses his opportunity to pin the linebacker inside. Wylie shows great awareness to spot this mistake and adjusts to pick up the linebacker as the more immediate threat, allowing the back the chance to cut inside of him and away from the free defender on the edge.
The Commanders didn’t really have that athleticism available to them consistently last year and it’s a big part of the reason why their screen game struggled. Sam Cosmi and Wes Schweitzer were probably the two most capable of that type of athleticism and mobility, but both struggled with injuries. Wylie makes for a welcome addition in that regard as he can fit in with just about any run and screen scheme Bieniemy wants to run.
In pass protection, Wylie isn’t an absolute star that can shut down the league’s best pass rushers consistently, very few right tackles can. But he has developed nicely over the years to a point where he can hold his own and can be pretty tough to beat on the edge.
One thing that stood out to me with Wylie in pass protection was his ability to stay parallel to his defender. Lots of offensive tackles will abandon technique when a rusher gets to a certain point and they just go into panic mode, doing everything they can to cut the rusher off. But Wylie does a really good job keeping his feet shuffling and his hips square to the target. This rep here against Haason Reddick in the Super Bowl is a good example of that. Reddick works off the edge and initially looks to engage with Wylie, getting his hands on him and standing him up before then dropping his hands and bursting by him on the edge.
Wylie absorbs the initial contact nicely, keeping his hands on Reddick’s chest the whole time. Then, as Reddick looks to disengage and burst around the edge, Wylie keeps his feet moving and shuffling across to cut him off. Notice how his hips stay square to Reddick the whole time and he just calmly slides with him. Reddick soon realizes he’s not going to be able to win outside and he tries to work back inside, but Patrick Mahomes gets the ball out of his hands by that point.
This ability to maintain his technique and stay square and parallel to rushers allows Wylie to be patient in pass protection. Many tackles will get hasty in trying to get their hands on rushers early, worried about getting beat for speed to the edge, but Wylie does a great job remaining patient and allowing blocks to come to him.
This time we see Wylie working against Chargers edge rusher Khalil Mack. Mack takes a wide alignment at the snap, indicating his intent to attack the edge at speed and give himself the best angle to get to the quarterback as quickly as possible. Some tackles would rush to try and get hands on Mack to cut him off, or even panic and abandon technique in order to engage in the block and not get beaten straight away. But Wylie remains patient, trusting his feet to be quick enough with his drop to stay with Mack on the edge and cut him off.
Because of this patience, Wylie is able to maintain solid technique when the time does come to engage with Mack. With the path to the edge cut off, Mack looks to engage with Wylie to drive him backwards towards the quarterback with a long-arm rush. Wylie though gets his own hand on Mack’s chest and fights with his inside hand to clear the long-arm move and reposition his inside hand on Mack’s right shoulder to prevent Mack from fully locking out his arm. This neutralizes Mack’s rush until the right guard slides over and tries to take him out. Unfortunately, the guard ends up missing Mack and getting more in Wylie’s way than anything else, but by that point the ball should have been thrown anyway.
Another aspect of Wylie’s pass protection that I like is his ability to widen the pocket. Much of the Chiefs’ offense under Eric Bieniemy last year was about getting the ball out quickly either from good schemes opening up quick passes or just to get the ball into the hands of playmakers like Travis Kelce. I suspect that will be a similar plan for Bieniemy in Washington given the weapons at receiver and a quarterback with a quick release like Sam Howell. To help make that style of offense effective, having the offensive line widen the pocket and create space for the quarterback to move around and see throwing lanes between lineman, which should be particularly helpful for a shorter quarterback like Howell.
Here against the 49ers, Wylie works against second-round pick Drake Jackson on the edge. It’s an empty formation, meaning it’s an obvious passing situation, so the pass rushers know they don’t need to worry about the run and can just tee off on trying to get to the quarterback. This would cause a lot of tackles to worry and drop back vertically off the snap in order to combat speed off the edge, but Wylie doesn’t do that. Instead, he widens the pocket by working outside towards the edge rusher. What’s also important here is to not get carried away and lunge at the rusher while trying to get hands on him to cut off that speed rush. Wylie remains patient and picks the right moment to strike, so that when he does punch with that outside hand, it’s very effective.
That punch stops the rusher working outside but also allows Wylie to latch on to his chest. Wylie then brings his inside hand into the equation and gains complete control of the block. He stonewalls the defender at that point until the right guard works across to help finish the block. The key point here is to notice the width he gets and how far the rusher is from the quarterback. Patrick Mahomes drops back on the hashmark and Wylie forces the edge rusher all the way out to the other hashmark at one point. That’s lots of space for the quarterback but also a wide throwing lane for him to work with on that right side.
Now Wylie’s obviously not perfect in pass protection, he struggled a few times with inside moves for example.
This clip shows two examples of Wylie getting beat inside. The first against the Chargers Wylie looks to get outside quickly to cut off the speed rush. Unfortunately, he oversets despite having a back ready to help chip on the edge. This opens a lane inside for the defender to burst into. Wylie can’t quite get back inside in time to cut off the rusher and can only resort to trying to slow him down enough to give the quarterback time to get rid of the ball. On the second play of the clip, Wylie looks to use a quick set to help sell a play-action fake. However, the defensive end stunt inside instantly and Wylie struggles to get his feet going back inside. Instead he resorts to grabbing on and gets called for a clear holding penalty.
But for the most part Wylie’s issues in pass protection are able to be negated by scheme with help from chips and slide protections. Eric Bieniemy obviously knows his limitations well and has proven he can scheme up ways to help Wylie at right tackle during the Chiefs Super Bowl run last season. Meanwhile his ability to help in the run game will be a welcome addition.
Overall the Commanders needed to address the offensive line this offseason and signing Wylie is a good start. He’s a solid player that doesn’t appear to be too expensive and Bieniemy can be happy knowing Wylie fits his scheme and knows the system. His positional flexibility will appeal to Ron Rivera too, who loves players that can fill in multiple spots and enables Washington to still target the best offensive lineman in the draft, regardless of position. While it’s not a huge signing, It’s a very sensible move by the Commanders and one that should be impactful.
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Interesting as always. I thought I saw on Twitter that he had a bad PFF grade or something like that. Assuming that's true, how much stock do you put in PFF grades. I have no idea if they're true or not but a lot of people reference them.
Glad to see them loading up on offensive linemen. Keeping a young QB upright and giving him a good running game should help a lot. Free up a little cap room with some cuts and draft more depth.