O Rodney, O Rodney, Wherefore Art Thou, Rodney?


Last week’s stats speak for themselves: Kansas CIty Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith completed just seven of sixteen passes. The Chiefs averaged just 3.0 yards per carry, including two scrambles by Smith. The San Francisco 49ers had seven – yes, seven – quarterback sacks, eight hits on Chiefs’ quarterbacks and nine tackles-for-loss. Statistics aside, my memory of last week’s game was Alex Smith ducking, weaving and running for his life.

On more than one occasion, 49ers defenders came in unscathed into the Chiefs’ backfield.

This game was just the second of the preseason. but the 49ers embarrassed us, and it was just their second game as well. But rest assured, Addicts. The problem, and the solution, may rest largely on the shoulders of one person: center Rodney Hudson.

Hudson arrived as a second round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and played 130 snaps in his rookie season – the equivalent of about two full games – but all at left guard. He did get to learn from the great Casey Wiegmann however, with the hope that Hudson would take over for Wiegmann in 2012. With Wiegmann in fact, retiring in 2012, Hudson was primed to take over. He lasted all of one game, breaking his left leg in the second game of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Before we get into how Hudson can fix what we saw last week, let’s take a closer look at him. He was a four-year starter at Florida State and a unanimous first-team All American. Hudson was a finalist for the Outland Trophy, annually awarded to the best collegiate lineman in the country. The story that caught my eye though, was this one, from the Orlando Sentinel:

"Before Rodney Hudson developed into an All-America left guard at Florida State, he was just a decent high school football player working nights at a Kentucky Fried Chicken.The money Hudson earned went to help his mom and so that maybe he could afford car insurance.Trickett [Hudson’s Offensive Line Coach] liked Hudson because of the environment he came from…and because Hudson reported for duty at a fast-food joint after spending all day at school and all afternoon at football practice.Kathleen Hudson said she didn’t need her son to help her financially, but Rodney insisted. She said he took on that job because “he felt like he needed to do something to help.”"

Hudson is clearly a character guy. He’s smart, he’s a gamer and he’s a proven winner as well. But let’s be clear: he has started just two regular season games at center in the NFL and essentially played just one full game at that position.

Quarterbacks need to call out adjustments as they walk up to the offensive line. Running backs need to make adjustments when they see blitz packages. But Hudson is the point person to make calls for the offensive line, to tweak or sometimes overhaul the blocking scheme based on what the defense is showing. Hudson is essentially a rookie in this regard, playing in his first few preseason games. Of the Chiefs’ offensive line starters, only Branden Albert is seasoned. Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah are in their second and fourth year, respectively, and Eric Fisher is a rookie (and switching from left tackle to right tackle!). It’s no wonder then, that the 49ers defense seemed at times to be unblocked.

Hudson played at the highest level of collegiate ball, but at left guard. Let’s give him a chance to learn the position, learn how to read defenses and learn how to make the right blocking scheme calls. It’s not time to panic yet, Addicts. Hudson has the potential to continue the long line of superb Kansas City centers, from Tim Grunhard to Mike Webster to Casey Wiegmann.

Addicts, do you think Hudson will learn to dominate this year?!