Now that the season has entered its final quarter and the Chiefs’ playoff hopes are in a coma, it’s time to start drilling down on the team and picking it apart to see where the weak spots are. This week, I want to focus on the offensive blockers. That is, the offensive line, tight end and fullback. To add some depth to this, I am going to use some stats provided by the fine folks at Pro Football Focus. DD has done a fine job using them in his weekly spots. So most readers are at least casually familiar with them. They grade every play. While I don’t want to rely exclusively on stats, they do provide some good insight into how each player stacks up against his peers.
At left tackle, Brandon Albert grades out at the 12th best left tackle in the NFL. That is a solid rating, but the feeling has been for years that Albert would be a Pro Bowl guard. Albert is a solid left tackle. The Chiefs can win with him at left tackle, however if the Chiefs can find a better left tackle, it would improve two positions at once.
As Paddy previously documented, Barry Richardson is the worst right tackle starting in the NFL. While the feeling is that Richardson is effective as a run blocker, not as a pass blocker, the grades at PFF indicate that he is equally poor in both areas. His pass blocking grade is -18.9 and his run blocking grade is -17.5. In prior articles, I have been comfortable with the idea of Richardson being a backup swing tackle. His grades are so poor, that I would like him off the team entirely. However, it’s not a high priority. If the Chiefs go to camp with Richardson and David Mims battling it out for the backup tackle, I could live with it.
As a rookie, Jon Asamoah grades out as the best Chiefs guard, ranked 12th overall at right guard. Grading that high in his first season as a starter is a good sign. However, the grade do show some concerns. He grades highly as a pass blocker, but poor (-10.5) as a run blocker. Some of this can be attributed to playing next to Barry Richardson. However, his run blocking technique could use some refinement.
Ryan Lilja also checks in at 12th best at his left guard position. In overall guard rankings, he is four positions lower than Asamoah. Unlike Asamoah, Lilja grades in negative territory in both run and pass blocking. From the looks of these stats, we probably have a keeper in Asamoah and we can get by with Lilja. However, an upgrade at left guard (cough, Albert, cough) could upgrade the team quite a bit.
It’s a bit of a futile exercise to discuss Casey Wiegmann. He is widely expected to retire at the end of the season. For what it’s worth, Casey grades out as the 14th best center in the NFL. His pass blocking remains his strong point, while his run blocking is below average. His heir apparent, Rodney Hudson, has a very small sample size to grade. All of his grades are at left guard, filling in for the injured Ryan Lilja. As is becoming a trend with the Chiefs, his pass blocking is in plus territory, while is run blocking is below average.
With Tony Moeaki lost for the year, this position has been abysmal. Leonard Pope has an average pass blocking rating and a terrible -10.7 run blocking rating. Jake O’Connell has been average as a blocker. A new run blocking tight end is a must.
Remember when Le’Ron McClain was in the Pro Bowl? Well, he will not make it this year. His blocking grades out at 14th out of 15 for fullbacks playing 50 percent of the snaps. Based on these stats, he should not return next year.
What does all this work tell us as far as draft needs going forward? There are more holes on this team than I would like to see. Ideally, the Chiefs need to bring in two new starting offensive lineman, at least one being a tackle. A second tight end, to go along with Tony Moeaki is needed. Also, a new fullback should be found. That’s my take on it, how do you all feel?