Unfortunately, the Kansas City Chiefs have been watching the playoffs on TV these past few weekends just like the rest of us. While there is never just one reason for a team falling short of the playoffs, I believe the number one reason that KC fell just short of the postseason is their struggles on the offensive line. Last week I detailed how QB Alex Smith’s success as a passer is directly related to the play of his offensive line. So while other areas must be improved this offseason the OL needs to be the top priority. This post will break down three key components to rebuilding this line during the offseason.
Before we get to the three steps to rebuilding the Chiefs offensive line, let me take a moment to explain why I feel the OL takes a clear priority over the WR position this offseason. While I can whole heartedly agree that the WR corps are in need of improvement, I believe it would be a clear mistake to make the WR position the top priority. My reasoning is pretty simple. Without an improved OL to give Alex Smith more time an improved WR corps would be wasted. When you combine a play it safe QB with a bad pass blocking OL you get a ton of dump offs and check downs. We’ve all seen that transpire with our own eyes.
I know, I know….”But Lyle, we had ZERO wide receiver TDs!!!!!!”
Yes, the Chiefs failed to have a single WR touchdown in 2014, but the previous season the Chiefs had 11 WR touchdowns with a unit that consisted of Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster, and Junior Hemingway. If anyone wants to take to the comments and argue that those four make up a better group of WRs than Bowe, Albert Wilson, Jason Avant, and DeAnthony Thomas I guess you can, but I certainly won’t be making that argument. Now, that’s not to say that WRs that get better separation wouldn’t help this offense, they would. I just believe that better pass protection will help THIS team with THIS QB more than simply upgrading the WRs would.
So with that in mind, here are my three steps to rebuilding the KC offensive line.
Nov 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs center Rodney Hudson (61) before the start of the game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
1. Re-Sign Rodney Hudson
This move seems like a no-brainer, but I’m terrified that the Chiefs are going to mess this one up. The Chiefs set a precedent last offseason of letting players like Branden Albert and Geoff Schwartz that were due big contracts walk in free agency and replacing them with younger and cheaper players. The Chiefs have a very cheap option at center that John Dorsey drafted waiting in the wings in Eric Kush. While Kush played very well this past preseason, I believe it would be an ENORMOUS mistake to let Hudson walk and hand the job over to Kush.
First off, like I’ve already stated, the Chiefs offensive line was their biggest problem last season. So how could they justify letting their only good offensive lineman walk? It makes zero sense. You are creating at best another question mark on the line and quite possibly another hole. Hudson finished the season as Pro Football Focus‘ number three rated center. The other four starters on the Chiefs OL finished ranked 38th, 64th, 72nd, and 78th at their positions. When you are trying to get a line fixed you don’t let the one piece that’s excelling leave town.
The other important part of retaining Hudson that I haven’t heard enough people talking about is his leadership on the line. Not only does the center have an important relationship with the QB, he also makes all the line calls at the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs are hopefully going to have new starters on the offensive line and they may also be counting on young players like Eric Fisher and Zach Fulton taking a step forward. If that’s the case the last thing you want is a change at center that will create one more inconsistency to overcome and likely set the line back in terms of how long it will take them to come together as a unit in 2015.
Re-signing Rodney Hudson is a must.
Click “NEXT” to see what step two of the plan is.