The latest news around the NFL is that former (and currently retired) Chief Ryan Lilja has drawn interest from the Denver Broncos after they lost their starting center Dan Koppen to injury. Some of these reports have also mentioned that Lilja has previously had some discussions with the Chiefs about coming back for another season. Trying to convince Lilja to come out of retirement to be a back up in KC will probably be a tough sell when compared to being Peyton Manning’s starting center on what many consider a Super Bowl caliber team. However, that is exactly what Chiefs general manager John Dorsey needs to do.
When I attended training camp on Sunday it appeared to me that the offensive line was by far the position group with the least depth. It probably gets overlooked because the combination of Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah, Rodney Hudson, Geoff Schwartz, Eric Fisher, Donald Stephenson, and Jeff Allen give the Chiefs 7 solid NFL caliber linemen. It would be GREAT if those were the only offensive linemen to see the field for KC this coming season. That would mean that the Chiefs avoided having a rash of injuries at the position. However, this is the NFL. As many teams have already learned since camps opened a week ago, injuries happen all the time. If the Chiefs were to have three offensive line injuries at the same time they would be in a world of hurt.
I don’t mean that to be disrespectful to the other offensive linemen on the roster, but there just isn’t ANYTHING there in terms of NFL experience. Here are the other lineman currently in camp with their NFL games played and games started.
Steven Baker – 6’8″ – 310 lbs – 0 games, 0 starts
Tommie Draheim – 6’4″ – 309 lbs – 0 games, 0 starts
Ryan Durand – 6’5″ – 301 lbs – 1 game, 0 starts
AJ Hawkins – 6’1″ – 310 lbs – 0 games, 0 starts
Colin Kelly – 6’5″ – 298 lbs – 0 games, 0 starts
Eric Kush – 6’4″ – 313 lbs – 0 games, 0 starts
Matt Reynolds – 6’4″ – 310 lbs – 0 games, 0 starts
Dustin Waldron – 6’5″ – 310 lbs – 0 games, 0 starts
So the 8 other offensive linemen in camp have appeared in 1 total regular season game and have ZERO starts at the NFL level. These are the kind of guys that have no profile picture or information available when you search for them on the NFL.com player database. Ryan Durand is the only one to dress for a regular season game. Matt Reynolds was on Andy Reid’s practice squad last year in Philly. Eric Kush was a 6th round draft pick. Maybe one of them turns out to be a good player. I’m all for developing young guys. I’d love it if one of them turns out to be a good NFL caliber player. I just don’t think they should count on it. This team needs another experienced interior offensive lineman.
Obviously, Ryan Lilja and his 111 games played with 104 starts would fit that bill. Here are a few other available free agents that have played some guard and center in their career.
Eugene Amano – 124 games, 68 starts
Rex Hadnot – 130 games, 96 starts
Kyle DeVan – 40 games, 26 starts
None of these guys would break the bank. Since Amano was a starter last season he may be hoping for a starting job, but Hadnot and DeVan would probably just be happy to get into a camp and compete for a roster spot (DeVan even started four games for Reid in Philadelphia in 2011). I would feel a LOT better if KC had another offensive lineman on the roster with some game experience. Maybe they will wait until other teams start making roster cuts but I just don’t feel comfortable with the offensive line depth on this team as it is now. So as the preseason games approach keep your eyes on the second and third string offensive line. Hopefully, they’ll prove me wrong. If they don’t, I hope that Ryan Lilja will pick his home town team over his old Indy buddy Manning and the dreaded Donkeys.