Breaking Down The Chiefs Offensive Line

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 28: Center Casey Weigmann #62 of the Denver Broncos prepares to snap the ball as the Broncos line up against the Kansas City Chiefs on September 28, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

 The Kansas City Chiefs are leading the league in rushing attempts and have given up only 4 sacks all season long. That means they have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, right?

Not necessarily. Sometimes scheming and game planning can make up for a lack of talent in certain areas.

So what is going on in Kansas City? Are their offensive successes a result of their offensive lineman consistently beating their man, is it coaching and scheme or is it a little of both?

Pro Football Focus, a partner of Arrowhead Addict, grades every player on every snap of every game. PFF’s statistics and grades are some of the most reliable in football. For a full breakdown of how PFF grades players, click here.

The simplified version, is that each player is graded on a scale between -2 and +2 on every play. The negative is bad, the positive is good. If a player does what he is supposed to on a play, like say a seal block, his grade for that play will likely be 0. 0 is average. Most plays are graded 0. If the player messes up a little, he might get a -0.5 for that play. If  he goes above and beyond, he might get a +0.5 or even a +1. -2’s and +2’s are rarely given out. The grades are then all added up and the player receives his grade for the game. If a guy had a very average game, he would finish with a grade around 0. If a guy had a fantastic game, he might finish with a grade of +8.5 or something like that. You get the idea.

Today I am going to break down the Chiefs offensive line. Check out who is really playing well and who is benefitting from the coaching scheme after the jump.

 Branden Albert

Cumulative grade after 5 games: -5.4

Pass Blocking: -3.4

Run Blocking: -0.8

Screen Blocking: 0.0

Sacks Relinquished: 0

QB Hits Relinquished: 2

QB Pressures: 12

Albert does not appear to be playing very well. The folks at PFF are very fair. If they aren’t sure what happened on a play they don’t grade it. They give our -2 and +2 grades less than 2% of the time. Their methods are very effective.

Albert’s score indicates that he is playing just a little below average in every game. Not terrible, but not average either. Albert actually is suffering from one really bad game. He really struggled in the 49ers game, grading at a -4.1. The Chargers game was his other poor performance as he was graded at -1.9.

His other games were closer to average. He received a -1 in Indianapolis and a -0.5 in Cleveland. His last game in Houston was his best game of the year as he was graded at +1.1. He was particularly good in run blocking last week, receiving a grade of +4.3. Although he was hurt in pass protection giving up 5 QB hurries.

The Verdict:

So far it appears as Albert is benefitting from the skills of Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles, the play calling and the fact that Matt Cassel is doing a better job of getting rid of the football. It doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to continue to improve, just that on a play by play basis, Albert is getting beat more often than not.

We’ll continue to monitor his play throughout the season.

Barry Richardson

B-Rich has been a big surprise for the Chiefs this year. He has played so well that many are wondering if Ryan O’Callaghan will get his RT job back when he is healthy. Has Barry finally developed or has he, like Albert, benefitted from other factors?

Let’s break down the numbers.

Cumulative grade after 5 games: -6.7

Pass Blocking: -3.8

Run Blocking: -2.3

Screen Blocking: 0.0

Sacks Relinquished: 1

QB Hits Relinquished: 3

QB Pressures: 11

Richardson has been consistently just below average all season long but hasn’t had any terrible games. Take a look at his grades for all 5 games thus far in order:

Game 1: +0.1

Game 2: -1.5

Game 3: -1.6

Game 4: -1.8

Game 5: -1.9

The Verdict:

Barry is also benefitting from the scheme and the running backs. He seems to be a little bit better in run blocking than he is in pass protection but his overall game needs to improve.

I think the Chiefs should stick with him. I don’t know that O’Callaghan will play much better and Richardson is still pretty young and should continue to develop.

Keep in mind that although both Richardson and Albert have negative scores that if they improve over the course of the season, so will their grades. I don’t think it is time to write either of them off yet but they have a lot of room for improvement. They are both giving up entirely too much pressure and this will become more of an issue if the Chiefs are put in a lot of 3rd and long situations. That is why it is critical that KC avoid negative plays and penalties. Thus far the team has been doing that and that is why the sack numbers are down.

Ryan Lilja

Ahh the guard position. This is where the Chiefs offensive line is shinning. Let’s start with the Chiefs free agent acquisition, Ryan Lilja.

Cumulative grade after 5 games: +9.7

Pass Blocking: +1.6

Run Blocking: +7.7

Screen Blocking: 0.0

Sacks Relinquished: 0

QB Hits Relinquished: 1

QB Pressures: 4

Lilja is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Pro Football Focus grades him as the 3rd best guard in the NFL. Only Carl Nicks of the Saints and Josh Sitton of the Packers grade higher and they both play in the NFC. If Lilja keeps this up he should be a lock for the Pro Bowl.

The Verdict:

Lilja is a big part of KC’s success. His run blocking grade is the 2nd best in the league behind only Nicks. Now that you know how well he is playing, watch and see how many times the Chiefs run to his side.

Lilja is the real deal. Big pickup by Pioli.

Brian Waters

Cumulative grade after 5 games: +5.7

Pass Blocking: +3.6

Run Blocking: +0.2

Screen Blocking: 0.5

Sacks Relinquished: 0

QB Hits Relinquished: 0

QB Pressures: 2

Waters is also playing at near Pro Bowl level. He is grading especially high in pass protection and his run and screen blocking are slightly above average. Not bad for an old man.

PFF has him graded as the 7th best guard in the NFL.

The Verdict:

Brian Waters doesn’t need no stinking scheme! We all know Waters is the real deal and as long as he stays healthy, the Chiefs line should continue to perform pretty well. It is very luck for young Albert and Richardson to be playing next to two outstanding guards. It can only help them develop.

Casey Weigmann

Cumulative grade after 5 games: -3.7

Pass Blocking: -2.3

Run Blocking: +0.1

Screen Blocking: -1.0

Sacks Relinquished: 0

QB Hits Relinquished: 4

QB Pressures: 4

Old Man Weigmann isn’t playing so hot for the Chiefs this year. His play is graded a little below average at -3.7.

Weigmann, however, is suffering from a couple of tough games. Take a look at his overall grades for all 5 games:

Game 1: -2.8

Game 2: -3.4

Game 3: +0.5

Game 4: +2.4

Game 5: -0.4

The Verdict:

Weigmann is ancient and is probably benefitting a little bit from the scheme and a little bit from his veteran smarts. He is capable of having a pretty good game, an average game and a really bad game.

While he looks to be the kind of yo-yo player the Chiefs like to avoid, his veteran smarts are invaluable in the middle of the offensive line. Weigmann probably isn’t going to be getting any better so his grades should continue to be up and down this season.

There you have it Addicts. According to Pro Football Focus, the Chiefs have two fantastic lineman in Waters and Lilja and three below average guys in Weigmann, Albert and Richardson. It looks as though this team is benefitting from a mixture of smart play calling, talented running backs and a couple of stud lineman.

It may not be the best line in the NFL but it has been effective thus far. Scott Pioli and the Chiefs coaching staff should be given credit for finding a way to maximize the talent that they have.

The key to the future of this line will depend on guys like Albert, Richardson and Asamoah continuing to develop and improve. If they do, the Chiefs should be solid along the line for years to come.

We will continue to provide you with this type of analysis on all the Chiefs positions as the season goes on.

Topics: Barry Richardson, Brian Waters, Casey Weigmann, Kansas City Chiefs, Ryan Lilja, Scott Pioli, Todd Haley

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