That Offensive Line


It may be the dull season for the NFL, but it’s sure the busy season for me as a student and a teacher. So my apologies for being sparse around this joint recently. I will continue to be a little slow for the upcoming week, and then after that I’ll be getting Teh Married, so I’ll be a ghost for a week after that. But by the time I get back, I’ll have gone to a high school reunion and will be so full of piss and vinegar you people will be begging me to stop beating you WITH MY UNFORGIVING ANGERRRRRR.

In the meantime, this depth chart looks surprisingly set-in:

  • Defensive line? Looks set in, even at nose with Edwards and Smith rotating.
  • Linebackers? I suppose there’s mystery if Derrick Johnson is starting… but he probably is. And other than that.
  • Wide receivers? Bowe and Chambers, and everyone else.
  • Tight ends? Moeaki’s starting. The only mystery is who’s third string…

There is some genuine mystery at safety, and I’ll explore that with a later post. But the one single largest question mark is offensive line. I had some downtime yesterday and I charted up no less than five conceivable offensive line depth charts depending on what the Chiefs want their line to look like.

The offensive line schemes I’ve written up all have their own distinct flavor. For all of them, meet me after the jump.

Here are the ingredients I’m working with:

Centers: Rudy Niswanger, Casey Wiegmann
Guards: Brian Waters, Ryan Lilja, Colin Brown, Jon Asamoah, Rudy Niswanger, Darryl Harris, Ikechuku Ndukwe
Tackles: Branden Albert, Ryan O’Callaghan, Barry Richardson, Ikechuku Ndukwe, Colin Brown

And here are five different offensive lines I can see blocking for the Chiefs in the future:

Known quantities:

LT: Albert, Richardson
LG: Waters, Niswanger
C: Wiegmann, Niswanger
RG: Lilja, Asamoah
RT: O’Callaghan, Ndukwe

The Herm Edwards approach during his three-year stint as head coach was to pick up veterans off the street and plug them into starting roles while he slowly rebuilt the rest of the line. The only high OL selection he made was Branden Albert. Based on last year’s lineup, Pioli/Haley showed the same approach for the majority of the season, starting dwinding veteran Mike Goff over any of the young talent he had assembled. Pioli drafted a guard very high this year, but even then he’s said Asamoah “doesn’t have to start right away.” I believe this to be the most likely lineup.

Youth movement:

LT: Albert, Richardson
LG: Lilja, Harris
C: Niswanger, Wiegmann
RG: Asamoah, Brown
RT: O’Callaghan, Brown

This particular lineup is not too far from my ideal lineup, which I have listed at the bottom of this post. It’s important to note the most glaring weakness here: there’s no Brian Waters. Well, as I’ve discussed, I think Brian Waters is entering his last days as a Chief, and with the wealth of potential the Chiefs have at guard, they might decide it’s time to part ways sooner than later. Waters will certainly not be around for the years when the Chiefs are competitive. But the newly acquired pieces to the puzzle — Lilja, Asamoah, O’Callaghan, Brown — definitely will. The most promising pieces from the Herm era — Albert, Harris, and Niswanger — remain because of that fact.


LT: Albert, Richardson
LG: Waters, Lilja
C: Niswanger, Asamoah
RG: Brown, Asamoah
RT: O’Callaghan, Ndukwe

With the entire AFC West now embracing the 3-4, a powerful interior line might be needed to handle the nose tackles the team will face a minimum of six times a year. In this case, the biggest lineman on the team such as O’Callaghan, Richardson, Brown, Ndukwe, and Waters all see a natural advantage over their smaller counterparts. These guys, at their best, are maulers.


LT: Albert, Richardson
LG: Lilja, Niswanger
C: Wiegmann, Niswanger
RG: Asamoah, Harris
RT: O’Callaghan, Ndukwe

With the ascendence of Jamaal Charles, and the acquisition of Dexter McCluster, it’s pretty clear this team is most likely headed in the direction of more agile lineman that can get downfield. The free agent signings of light lineman like Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann prove that point. If that’s the case, I simply don’t think Waters has a role on this team if that’s the case. Waters is slower now at his older age (he’s a bruiser and a mauler anyway). Wiegmann and Lilja were signed as starters in that case, and Asamoah sees a starting role immediately. The Chiefs live with the lead-footed O’Callaghan on the right side, but not for much longer.

Crocker’s ideal:  

LT: Albert, Richardson
LG: Asamoah, Harris
C: Waters, Niswanger
RG: Lilja, Niswanger
RT: Brown, O’Callaghan

While I thought the signings of Wiegmann and Lilja were overrated, I do think Lilja has a chance at locking down a starting position longterm. Wiegmann offers us one season, if that. I’m not interested — I want to build a line. And I think this lineup gives us the best chance. Albert and Asamoah can wreak havoc for a decade on the left side of the line. Lilja has starting potential and I’m willing to give him a shot on the right side. has Colin Brown listed as a guard, but I say it’s time to see what the kid’s made of at the position he was drafted for. He can’t be any slower than O’Callaghan.

The one position that requires a stopgap in my ideal is Brian Waters. Niswanger is a finesse center (and not a terribly good one at that) and gets manhandled by every nosetackle he meets.  Center is a dramatically different position than guard, but Waters could bring a mauler’s attitude to the center position until we can bring in someone next year to continue building the line.

What looks like a good starting lineup to you?