Reliance On Kansas City’s Young Offensive Lions

The Kansas City Chiefs are tasked with finding answers just one year after fielding the league’s worst offense in 2012. Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel, Brian Daboll, and Matt Cassel were the four pillars of the 32nd-ranked scoring offense in the NFL. Those days are now behind the organization and the team is looking to forge a new offensive identity.

Coaches are anxious to get to St. Joseph and see their offensive installments in live training camp action. Players are brimming with confidence over increased roles and new offensive possibilities. Even the national talking heads have gushed over Andy Reid’s 2013 plans for the offense. The sky truly is the limit, right? While I hate to be a buzzkill, I believe Kansas City’s offensive line may be reason for concern.

The Chiefs have a lot of young offensive talent along the line, but they also have just as much inexperience. When training camp opens later this month (on July 26th), the Chiefs could have as many as four starting offensive linemen under the age of 26. Only two of those four (Jon Asamoah and Jeff Allen) have made more than four NFL starts. When you factor in Rodney Hudson’s 2013 campaign to return from a season-ending knee injury and Eric Fisher’s year one learning curve, you realize that offensive change may come later than Chiefs Kingdom expects.

Branden Albert and Jon Asamoah are the rock solid cast members of Kansas City’s offensive line. Albert is one of the ten best left tackles in the league. He’s so valuable to this football team that general manager John Dorsey used the franchise tag to retain him for 2013. The relationship between Albert and the team was tense earlier in the offseason, but reports say he and the team will soon resume negotiations on a long-term deal. Asamoah is already an above-average starter who can become an elite right guard if he continues to progress. Their presence up front helps me sleep at night. The rest of the offensive line isn’t quite as comforting.

Last year, rookie Jeff Allen made 13 starts for the Kansas City Chiefs. Unfortunately, his level of play was mostly unimpressive. Pro Football Focus ranked rookie Jeff Allen as the 79th-best guard in the league (out of 81). Allen still has plenty of room left to grow, but he’s not much of a solution for the Chiefs at this stage in his career. Free agent acquisition Geoff Schwartz might be a better option at left guard for now. Schwartz is a three-year veteran of the NFL who’s received favorable PFF grades throughout his short career. He received a +5.8 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2012. In his only season as a full-time starter (2010), he had a +19.3 grade.

Rodney Hudson is believed to be Kansas City’s incumbent at center. There were early concerns that he wouldn’t be healthy enough to start the 2013 season, but those fears were allayed when he stepped onto the field for the first organized team activities in April. Hudson won’t have much competition for the job. Sixth-round pick Eric Kush doesn’t pose much of a threat to him. There’ve been a few reports that suggest Kush has struggled mightily throughout the offseason. Hudson played well in his three starts last season (earning a +4.6 grade from PFF). That’s still too small a sample size to come to any concrete conclusions about where he is as a center. For now, the jury’s still out on Rodney Hudson.

Eric Fisher, Kansas City’s 1st-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, has all of the God-given talent in the world. He’s the kind of prospect that helps a 2-14 team get better in a hurry. Fisher is NFL-ready and has one of the most striking skillsets of any offensive lineman in the draft class. That being said, Jon Baldwin has taught us that a first-round draft grade, athleticism, and potential don’t always yield immediate success. Fisher needs time to get adjusted to the NFL game. I believe he’ll be a perennial Pro Bowler in time, but for now he’s still an unproven commodity.

I’d like to believe in this group, but I have very real concerns about their lack of experience. Kansas City’s offensive potential has been assumed, but not much has been said about how important the success of the offensive line is to Andy Reid’s big picture. Alex Smith has always preferred being sacked to throwing an interception. Any weakness in Kansas City’s pass protection serves to interrupt the timing of the passing game. That works out to longer third-down situations and lower conversion rates.

Jamaal Charles has always been the kind of runningback who can succeed with or without stellar line play, but he’s been at his best with real holes to run through. Charles can score from anywhere on the field, but he’s most dangerous when he can get through the first level of defenders cleanly. Remember the 91-yard touchdown that sparked a huge comeback against the New Orleans Saints? The run blocking on that play was superb. Branden Albert absolutely mauled his man on the sweep. Hopefully the offensive line has more of that in store for 2013.

The Chiefs need the offensive line to gel quickly and make the most of each training camp rep. Here’s hoping that the young members of Kansas City’s offensive line mature sooner rather than later. The Chiefs start the season with three games in just eleven days (two of which are on the road). They’ll need to be sharp to start the regular season if they want to keep pace in the race for an AFC wildcard berth.

If it were up to me, my offensive line starters would be:

LT Albert – LG Schwartz – C Hudson – RG Asamoah – RT Fisher

Use the comment section below to weigh in on the topic. What five players would you pick to be your starting offensive line? As always, we encourage and appreciate your feedback here at AA!

Until next time, Addicts!

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Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • Lyle Graversen

    I’m with you Stacy,

    Albert, Schwartz, Hudson, Asamoah, Fisher

  • Jason Seibel

    You hit the nail right on the head. That was my prediction a couple of weeks ago with the depth chart and unless something CRAZY happens in camp, I really think that’s the “best 5″ Reid has spoken of in his soundbites so often this offseason.

  • Patrick Allen

    I think you have to go with Schwartz. Allen just didn’t get it done last year and Schwartz has played well when given the chance.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Very well, in fact. I have a hard time believing that Allen will win an open competition with him. Schwartz is too good a football player.

      • berttheclock

        Yeah, it will be interesting on October 2 to see the two brothers, Schwartz, on the same playing field.

        • Stacy D. Smith

          10/27: When the Chiefs play the Browns at Arrowhead. Geoff’s brother Mitchell is an offensive tackle for Cleveland.

      • Troy Utt

        Straight Up on all Stacy… I just don’t think Allen has the moxy & that will become even more evident once we put pads on here in a few weeks! It’s one thing to practice in shorts & helmets, & something entirely diff with them on!

  • chiefridgy


    • Stacy D. Smith

      Not a typo, I meant to say “Lions.”

      • chiefridgy

        But u never went back to it in the article.

        • Stacy D. Smith

          I never want to overuse the wordplay in my headlines. That’s just me though.

          • berttheclock

            Did you know the Baylor band plays the theme to “The Young Lions” before home games? Could it be played at Arrowhead, as well?

  • stephan costa

    I think they will gel quick. A lot of high football I.q.’s there. I agree with that 5

  • Calchiefsfan

    My thinking exactly Stacy. Allen still needs more time. I’m concerned about Hudson’s health, especially since we have no suitable backup. For that reason I was hoping the Chiefs would draft Barrett Jones instead of Kniles Davis. I like Davis but I think Jones has more value and was more of a need. If Hudson stays healthy and Schwartz plays like he has been then we should have a pretty decent line. I’m really not worried about Fisher. Another reason though that I like our schedule. It will give Fisher and the line time to get used to each other.

  • Jim Harper

    You hit the nail on the head with your starting line. I am hoping that this offense is going to help them succeed. Lots of motion and misdirection to help them. I am chomping at the bit to see it come together. See you in St Joe!

  • Jim Harper

    By the way I loved the Lions use.

  • berttheclock

    This could be the year when Allen proves the pundits were correct about him coming out of college. Although on most boards, he was rated as an offensive tackle, comments about his desire to play and work ethic were much higher than those of Kelechi Osemele, the Iowa State player, nabbed by the Ravens. Osemele was rated as the 5th best guard coming into the draft, but, Baltimore took him and tried him at OT, then, switched him to guard, where he had problems, but, seems to have righted his own ship. Allen was switched from tackle to guard with the Chiefs and has had problems. As Allen was taken before Osemele, they are the two closest to compare.

    • Troy Utt

      Bert, I noticed even the pundits at took Schwartz over Allen when selecting their AFCW All-Pro Team. Just goes to show that the collective minds here on AA are way ahead of the curve! It was nice to see a total of 10 Chiefs on the squad, even though you have to argue the “2-14 why are there so many Chiefs comments,” simply proclaiming that was last year…This is a new team, & a new season!

  • Irebigjohn

    Good call, I like your line up and agree with most of what you said. The O-line coaches have alot of work ahead of them.But Hudson broke his foot, not a knee injury. I’m pretty sure I read it on the injury report. Anyway, go chiefs and our roster has not looked this good in years!!! Look out AFC West!!!

    • Stacy D. Smith

      I’m not sure we ever got a clear explanation of the injury. The initial reports suggested a right knee injury. Later reports said that he broke a bone in his left leg. I’ve never heard it was his foot. I could be wrong about that though.

  • John

    Andy uses gel in his hair. Everything is gelling together. Did anyone see Alex play when the offensive line couldn’t block? Better stock up on tissues….

    • Stacy D. Smith

      In that vaunted offense that began its season with the Jimmy Raye at the helm? On the SAME team where the disgraced head coach (who was later fired in-season) required an ultra-conservative offense, criminally underused Brian Westbrook, and publicly slighted his own quarterback? I wonder why Alex Smith wouldn’t thrive in such an environment? Gimme a break.