Keeping Casey Wiegmann

On Thursday, resident big-mouth Double D wrote that the offensive line for the Kansas City Chiefs doesn’t deserve all the hate it gets from the Chiefs blogosphere.  After all, the line blocked for one of the best run games in team history, didn’t it?  And hasn’t the line enjoyed a continuity the team hasn’t seen since Dick Vermeil?

Yes it has, and yes it has.  But as AA commenters argued:

Any time you can improve a position, do it.

That’s long been my line as well, and a week ago I argued that the Chiefs should part ways with OL icon Brian Waters to further that goal.  The Chiefs are clearly committed to the same goal, as they brought in Jon Asamoah to ostensibly upgrade Waters at guard.  This year, the Chiefs drafted one of the best center prospects in the draft, Florida State guard Rodney Hudson, to upgrade the ageless Casey Wiegmann at center.

And upgrade they will.  Hudson has a bright future as a 10-year-starter in the heart of this offensive line.

But let’s consider giving a year before that future starts.  More, after the jump.

Let us start by considering the man himself, Rodney Hudson.  Exactly how talented is Rodney Hudson? 

Turns out, quite.

  • A lighter offensive lineman (natural weight is around 290), he is an excellent puller and runs really great in space.  For a great comparison in terms of his athleticism, look no further than Ryan Lilja.  This didn’t time out very well at the Combine, but looking at tons of clips shows you a lineman that can build up steam and keep control as he hunts down his man.
  • His pass protection is damn near peerless in this draft class.  He is a great technician who understands the finer points of defanging an opponents passrush.  He also combines that with a great kneebend and the ability to keep his body level, and recognizes very quickly any number of stunts and blitzing gimmicks a defense employs, which will be valuable against extremely creative passrushing teams in the AFC West like the Chargers and Raiders.
  • He doesn’t lose a single matchup all game in this YouTube where FSU plays one of the meanest defenses in football, North Carolina.  Watch in particular how he dominates fellow 2011 second rounder Marvin Austin (#93).  Houston is leagues above every lineman he faces, which includes Day 1 and Day 2 talents from the 2011 and 2012 NFL Drafts.
  • Hudson plays with great heart and an irrepressible drive.  There are very few players in football that you can accurately describe as “refusing” to lose.  Here, Rodney is a world-beater.  His poor plays are often followed up by domination, for entire series and quarters.  He will play as if he cannot stand the mistakes he made or allowing another player to beat him.
  • His durability would make Casey Wiegmann proud.  He played 47 games in four years at FSU, and that includes an occasion where he bounced back quickly with injury.  When Hudson gets the green light to start in the heart of our line, he will be there until you pull him, because he will never, and I mean never, come out on his own.
  • “Wow, so this guy lasted until the second round?”  Yeah.  Hudson’s play reminds people of the Bears’ All Pro Olin Kreutz, and was regularly graded as having 1st round talent.  But his lack of size and the necessary conversion to center (usually takes a year) downgraded him a full round.

He’s a special talent, but let’s recognize the reality of Hudson’s few limitations, and the reality of the league:

  • We are in a lockout.  With no OTAs, rookie camp, and a drastically reduced training camp and preseason in quality, all rookies are going to come into the first half of 2011 season prepared to struggle.  Normally I’m okay with young guys taking some time to struggle and understand what works and what doesn’t (see: Asamoah), but the 2011 schedule is brutal for the Chiefs, and with all of the talent Hudson will be facing, it’s possible that the parade of great defenses could detonate his future potential. 
  • A transition to center roughly takes a year.  There are so many different responsibilities for center, and for his nearly 50 games of experience, only a few of those were at center, and they were a couple years ago.  The way you hit defensive lineman, your blocking assignments, the leadership role of the position, under center snaps, shotgun snaps, misdirection snaps, understanding the QB’s hardcounts and adjustments, your three point stance is even fundamentally different…  Hudson is entirely up to the challenge here, there’s going to be a learning curve.  There is absolutely no learning curve for Casey Wiegmann.  Working with Wiegmann will give Hudson the perfect preview as to how you man the position.
  • Hudson needs to get stronger.  This is a smaller complaint, but there is one legitimate knock of Rodney Hudson: his playing strength is solid, but needs to be top-ten-at-his-position NFL caliber.   That will likely take a couple years, although working with Bill Muir and Wiegmann is going to help him out a ton.
  • Hudson single-handedly fixes the depth on our interior line for 2011.  With Wiegmann starting, we don’t have to worry about taking a shot on some lower end free agents or dip into our practice squad.  And we won’t have to witness Rudy Niswanger for another year, as Hudson backups up all three interior line positions for the 2011 season.
  • Wiegmann is pretty good at football, and we’re not hurting for money.  Even more than Lilja, the biggest factor in the OL’s dramatic improvement in 2010 must be attributed to Casey Wiegmann.  Wiegmann simply cannot be fooled by any disguised defense; his linecalls are impeccable.  His wheels still have tread on them, he was blocking well all season, well into the Ravens playoff loss as well until the wheels came off for the entire team.  Give him one more year to take the punishment of a lethal schedule, and bring Hudson after Casey shows him the ropes.

Hudson is a uniquely talented individual that will allow his transition to a new position and a new professional league of football to be easier than most.  These factors just add up to the Chiefs leaving nothing to chance.  Bring back the talented Casey Wiegmann for one year, and give Hudson the keys to the pigskin for the next twelve.

After all, if you can improve a position, even for a season, you do it.

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