Chiefs’ Line Play The Root Of All Evil

In poll after poll, Chiefs fans have blamed Haley and the coaches for the last two weeks’ disastrous games. In addition to his hobo beard failing us, the Chiefs have come out flat on both sides of the ball, unable to stop defenses and too inept to get things going on offense – or at least nullifying their good work with penalties when lightning did strike.

However, if there is someone to blame, I don’t think it is Haley. Although he has undoubtedly made mistakes – the nursing-home-paced training camp, and a series of questionable play calls – I do still think he has mostly gotten the best out of what he has to work with.

Cassel has also gotten a lot of flak for his performance, and again, much of it is deserved. As it stands now, Cassel’s season stats are – and may end up permanently being – 10 TD, 9 INT, CMP% 59.5, RAT 76.6. He has had his moments, but essentially has shown that he can’t put the team on his shoulders when the run game is ineffective. I have long made my opinion known that he is a pretty much the definition of a mediocre quarterback. He can manage the game well with play-action passes and has the arm to hit a few strikes a game as long as the defense is biting on the run. But, if it’s all left to him, he will sputter. Still, he’s not the person to blame for our perpetual woes this season.

I’ll tell you who the culprit is after the jump:

No big surprise here: it’s personnel decision-makers Scott Pioli and his Emperor Palp-my-team boss, Clark Hunt.

To me, the biggest things this team was lacking at the end of last season were clear. We had just gotten smacked around by physical teams two games in a row – da Raidas and the Ravens. Both teams stuffed the run, made our O-line look like a bunch of out-of-sync sumo dancers, and preceded to breeze right past our defensive front on the ground, literally, quite like a line of hurtles.

I was, like many others on this site, pounding the table for them to pick up either nose tackle Phil Taylor or offensive tackle Gabe Carimi. We didn’t obviously, although both were available to us. How have they done so far?

First of all, I don’t pretend to follow the Cleveland Browns or the Chicago Bears closely enough to have tape on how Taylor and Carimi have done, but I can offer this very flawed stat: In Madden, Taylor’s player rating has jumped from 74 to 79 so far this season making him their second best D-lineman and Gabe Carimi started out 74 overall but dislocated his kneecap in Week 2 and was never able to see the field after that. Still, in a sign of both the Bears’ blocking woes and their high hopes for Carimi, they kept him on the active roster until yesterday, because they felt that he would make a huge impact if he could come back from the injury.

Although Cleveland hasn’t exactly been the fiercest run-stuffer of the league, only the perpetually outscored Indianapolis Colts have had teams run against them more often. Even facing an average of 32.6 rushes per game, Cleveland’s undoubtedly constantly exhausted defense has allowed only 4.4 yards per game, ranking them a respectable 14th in the league in that category. Taylor has racked up 31 tackles, forced a fumble and gotten four sacks for them. Meanwhile, the free agent we picked up instead of Taylor, Kelly Gregg, has 26 total tackles, one sack, no turnovers.

And nose tackle isn’t our only underperforming position. Kansas City is currently 32nd in the league in sacks with nine (six of which are Tamba Hali’s), and we’re giving our opposing QBs enough time to average an 84.1 passer rating against us, despite the fact that we are ranked 4th in the league for interceptions with 13. Meaning, despite our opportunism shown by ou defensive backfield, our D-line is giving opposing offenses time to pick us apart at will.

Carimi, provided he wouldn’t have had a season-ending injury for the Chiefs, would have replaced Barry Richardson, which I think every Arrowhead Addict agrees is pretty much the worst starting lineman in the league. With Carimi, the Chiefs would have had reliable bookends at both tackle positions which would have increased the ability of Chiefs RBs to bounce their runs outside and also would have made for more effective counters and sweeps. Currently, the Chiefs have the 2nd most rushes for negative yardage when going to the right side. Who’s number 1, you ask? The Chicago Bears, who clearly also need Carimi. The Chiefs are also 31st in the league at getting first downs when running right (we beat out Seattle, woot!). By comparison, we’re a solid 29th in the league for negative runs to the left, and are ranked 6th in the league in the amount of 10-yard-or more gains when running to the left with 16 total.

In other words, with Richardson, we have one of if not the worst right sides in the NFL. Even with a pretty good left side, there is simply no way to compensate for the fact that every defense on the planet knows you can only run left or up the gut. Meanwhile, they know exactly where to attack on passing downs.

Like all of you, I am very excited with the way that Baldwin has come on midseason for us, but Breaston has stepped up, too, and I’m not sure that number 89 has become a game-changing force for us yet. Meanwhile, imagine if one of two other scenarios were true:

A.) We were able to stop opposing defenses from running effectively on us in key situations forcing them to throw more balls toward the ball-hawk Brandons? Imagine we could actually pressure the quarterback, and oh, I don’t know have a chance to produce double-digit sacks this season.

B.) Imagine the right side of our line was as strong as the left side, meaning a total of 32 runs for 10-or-more yards. Having an all-around solid blocking unit that would not allow defenses to stack up D-linemen on the left. Imagine a line that that would have given Cassel enough time to hit just a dozen more 3rd and 4th down passes. I actually think that losses like the one against Miami were less lopsided than their final scores suggest because Haley was playing for the win and going for 4thdowns not field goals when trailing late in games. Imagine if we had the pass blocking to make a few of those.

Now do you still think that Baldwin gives us a better chance to win than either of those two scenarios being true? With two legit receivers in Bowe and Breaston, I sort of look at Baldwin like an unnecessary luxury given the state of the O-line. It’s like having a jacuzzi, but no toilet.

Even if you to think he’s worth it, I think it is now clear that offseason priority number one is to put all of our personnel ammunition – draft picks, trades and free agency – at play for shoring up the remaining holes in the trenches. It’s clear that, especially with Charles, Moeaki and Berry coming back, that we have enough talent in the backfields to be effective. What we lack is that fundamental piece that holds it together. If we can just fix those two areas, plus better our dreadful depth all-around, we once again have a solid team.

Don’t talk about Luck or Manning. Start thinking about that next ultra-talented, big, fat guy that will allow Cassel to play like Manning. Hell, look at what San Fran has been able to do with solid line play, good coaching, plus Frank Gore — whom Jamaal Charles is superior to — and Alex Smith, who, at best, is more or less on the same level as Cassel. Still, if Cassel continues to underwhelm, and we have all of these other pieces in place, then image that squad with the aggressive addition of the next great quarterback.

To quote Dick Cheney in the movie, “W,” “That’s f***ng Empire.”

Topics: 2011 Draft, Barry Richardson, Chiefs, Defensive Line, Firing Squad, Gabe Carimi, Offensive Line, Phil Taylor

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