Double Take: Sizing up the Chiefs Offensive Line

According to official stats, the average weight of a starting offensive lineman in the 2010 season was 314.5 lbs. The average height was 6’ 4.5”. The average weight of the Kansas City Chiefs starting offensive line was 306 lbs (with Richardson at RT). The average height of the Chiefs offensive line was 6’ 3.6”. In other words, the Chiefs offensive line was collectively shorter and lighter than the NFL average. Specifically, the Chiefs were the 5th lightest line in the entire NFL. The Washington Redskins laid claim to the being the lightest of all.

Breaking this down a little further, position-by-position, the following table shows how the Chiefs starting OL compared to their respective average OL counterparts. (I am using Richardson’s dimensions for RT even though for some inexplicable reason listed O’Callaghan as our starting RT).

At all positions other than Center and Right Guard, the Chiefs are pretty much in line with league averages. Weigmann and Lilja however are a bit shorter and significantly lighter than their average NFL counterparts. In fact, Weigmann and Lilja were the two lightest lineman at their respective positions out of the entire NFL. Is that good, bad, or does it even matter? Well, it can be good and bad, and in certain key situations, it matters a lot. I’ll explain what I mean by that right after the jump.

First off, we need to acknowledge that Todd Haley places a high premium on players staying in shape, including keeping their weight down. I believe, among other things, that this produces positive results in terms of minimizing injuries. The Chiefs were blessed with being one of the least injured teams in the NFL in 2010. Due to our lack of depth at nearly all positions, losing starters almost always had devastating consequences.

Secondly, we also need to recognize that the Chiefs owe much of their success in 2010 to the running game where they heavily utilized a Zone Blocking Scheme (ZBS). As I am sure all of you know, the ZBS tends to favor lighter, and thus quicker linemen. Generally speaking, the teams with the lightest lineman feature some form of ZBS.

End of story? You know me better than that.

I’ll be honest with you. I really don’t like the fact that the NFL’s smallest center and the smallest right guard play for the Chiefs right alongside of one another. Yes, I acknowledge that the Chiefs had a lot of success with running the ZBS. At the same time, it also needs to be acknowledged that the Chiefs generally struggled in short yardage situations last season and moreover struggled mightily against big, physical defenses. Indeed, you may recall from the DVOA analysis that I did on our offensive line a few weeks back, that the weakest aspect of our offensive line was in the power running game (we ranked 20th) and pass protection (we ranked 18th).

Please also recall if you will, that the Chiefs power game last season almost always consisted of trying to squeeze Thomas Jones between the guards where he would inevitably fall way short of the needed yardage. Plan B for the next short yardage situation? Our offensive brain trust would dial up a lateral toss to Charles – for a loss.

Listen to me Addicts. This is a situation that’s only going to get worse in 2011. Think I’m kidding? Check the schedule. It is imperative that Scott Pioli and company take appropriate offseason measures to ensure we are no longer relying solely on the services of the Diminutive Duo for every down of every series. Note, I am not necessarily advocating the immediate replacement of either of these players as starters, but rather supplementing our interior line with bigger players who can handle bigger defenses and improve our ability to get those tough yards. What needs to happen is that we draft (or otherwise find) at least one, hopefully more, interior linemen that is/are beefier than the Tiny Twins and yet still suitable for the ZBS. Also keep in mind that guys like Weigmann and Waters are not exactly spring chickens and so we better also be thinking long term on this whole deal.

I am of the mind that a successful running game requires not so much individual offensive line talent at the interior positions so much as guys who are the right size, with solid skills (and/or upside in that department), who know how to work well as a unit. Let me repeat that, a good interior lineman possesses the right size, a good skill set and most importantly, the proven ability to gel with his fellow linemen. In the draft, where might one find that sort of player? At the college level, I say a good place to start that search is to simply look at schools that excelled at both running and passing the ball because you can’t do both in DIV 1 without proper chemistry along your offensive line.

Naturally, I consulted Football Outsider’s to see which college offenses faired best and came up with the following short list of schools based on their S&P Rankings:

That’s my Double Take for today. Tomorrow, on Draft Thursday, I’ll reveal some possible prospects from each of these schools. In the meantime Addicts, feel free to weigh in with your own personal takes on any or all of this!

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Tags: Casey Weigmann Chiefs 2011 Draft Needs Chiefs Offensive Linemen Kansas City Chiefs Ryan Lilja

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