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Former Chiefs OL Joe Valerio breaks down key trench battles in AFC Championship

Former Chiefs offensive lineman and current host of the Bleav in Chiefs podcast, Joe Valerio, joins the program to break down Sunday’s huge matchup.

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Because of online access, social media and the rise in analytics in recent years, even the most casual fans are well-versed in many aspects of football.

However, if you think you know X’s and O’s, then you don’t know Joe.

No, not Joe Burrow—former Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman and current Bleav in Chiefs podcast host, Joe Valerio. We had the pleasure of speaking with Valerio this week to preview the AFC Championship Game, and he brought intricate, detailed responses when it came to personnel, matchups and what to expect in this game for the ages.

When it came to key individual matchups this week, Valerio predictably honed in on Kansas City interior lineman in Chris Jones. But, he provided a mind’s eye approach for the Bengals’ offensive line.

“If I were a fan, I would watch what happens right at the snap with Chris Jones and what happens on the interior (of the Bengals’ offensive line), whether it’s left guard, right guard, center, whatever and which scheme they’re going to come up with to block” Valerio told us this week. “And, which direction the Bengals’ line goes to slide protection with Jones and (Frank) Clark, or whether they’re going to slide the protection to (Jarran) Reed and Melvin Ingram.”

Then, Valerio followed up with a demonstration and explanation of offensive line play, based on his vast experience playing and what’s happening with protection in today’s NFL.

“What happens with offensive line play, it’s all slide protection these days,” Valerio continued. “So, what they do is—picture the four down linemen and one linebacker. So, you’re going to watch the center or the quarterback and they’re going to yell a number...So, let’s say there’s four down lineman and ‘No. 52’ (a linebacker), is offset to the left of the offensive line. So, the center is going to say ‘52, 52!’ and that’s the guy the offensive line is responsible for. They’re responsible for those four down players and that ‘backer—so, whoever the uncovered guy is, they’re going to slide to that player.”

“So, if you have a standard four-man front and the two defensive tackles are lined up over the guards, the center is going to inch his way to the left, so that if No. 52 comes, the guard is going to take him and the center will take his guy, or if No. 52 goes outside, they’ll slide the protection all the way and have the tackle take him, the guard will take the end and the center will take the down tackle—that’s how slide protection works.”

Valerio’s general overview of slide protection then transitioned into what that means for Sunday’s matchups.

“Watch who they (the Bengals) declare as the offensive line’s linebacker,” Valerio continued. “When they declare that the center is going left, let’s say there’s another linebacker or defensive back lined up to the right—that now belongs to the running back or the quarterback. The running back takes that player and the other line players on the right side are one-on-one.”

“And, that’s where the trouble can happen...you don’t want Chris Jones as that singled-up down tackle,” Valerio concluded. “So, picture that: the center is going left because he’s gotta go help out the tackle and guard with No. 52, who’s their guy, and now you’ve got a one-on-one with Chris Jones and Melvin Ingram on the right side, or Chris Jones and Frank Clark on the right, or the opposite. What the Chiefs will try to do is they’ll try to put the ‘blitzing linebacker’ to the side that’s away from Chris Jones because they’re going to want to create those one-on-ones with Jones and Frank Clark—they’re going to want the center to go away from Chris Jones and not be able to help.”

Here are some of the other areas in which we chatted:

  • Valerio really respects the Chiefs’ coaching staff and their almost “A.I.-like” intelligence. They alter playbooks to players they bring in and not the other way around.
  • His breakdown of protection calls and how offensive lines get set up with calls at the line was incredible—as was his corresponding recall of his matchup against Reggie White.
  • Valerio praised the abilities of both Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes, namely their ability to ad-lib and make huge plays. He did note that the Chiefs want to get Mahomes running out of the pocket to his right, instead of his left, if possible.
  • When it comes to Joe Burrow being compared to the (former?) G.O.A.T. and quarterback he played with in Joe Montana, Valerio definitely sees similarities, but also one significant difference, which is also a positive.
  • Valerio played for recently-deceased and former great NFL coach, Marty Schottenheimer. He reflected some thoughts and stories from the former Chiefs and Browns coach.
  • And so much more!

Our thanks to Joe Valerio and the Bleav podcast network for his appearance! Please go check out the Bleav in Chiefs podcast and follow him on Twitter @JoeValerio73!

If you’re unable to join us live here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube for every episode, all of our podcast content is available here on CJ, the Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Google Play Music apps, our Orange and Black Insider YouTube channel, as well as through Megaphone and, as always, on iTunes! Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels to be notified when we’re going live and when new episodes are available!