14 Days ‘Til Camp: Offensive Line Full of Drama, Talent


Oct 7, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback

Matt Cassel

(7) is looked at by tackles

Branden Albert

(76) and

Eric Winston

(74) after an injury against the Baltimore Ravens in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Baltimore won the game 9-6. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Ed. Note: Every evening from now until July 26 – the day every Chiefs player is expected to report for training camp – we will countdown and discuss some of the more important questions for the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs. 

The offseason was dominated by two names: Branden Albert and Eric Fisher.

Fisher represents the NFL’s number one overall draft pick in last April’s draft, which carries quite a bit of expectation. With the Chiefs needs at quarterback and defensive line, the hope was Kansas City could find a way to move down and get someone who better fits their roster needs, but that opportunity never materialized. As a result, the Chiefs were locked into Fisher – or for a while, Luke Joeckel – with the top overall pick, which led to all the drama of the offseason.

There was a point in April where nearly every Chiefs fan assumed Albert was on his way out. The Miami Dolphins were rumored to be in intense talks with the Chiefs about a deal with reports going so far as to say they had already worked out a contract for Albert, and a trade was almost a formality. On the first night of the draft, it seemed this was a foregone conclusion when the Dolphins traded up to the third overall pick in the draft but did not select the best remaining left tackle on the board.

But the Dolphins deal for Albert never materialized, and the draft came and went without a move. Suddenly it became clear – Albert wasn’t going anywhere.

While Albert staying in Kansas City is a good thing for the short-term, as he is one of the better left tackles in football, there are still long-term questions hanging over Albert. There are no indications the Chiefs will get a long-term contract finished before the July 15 deadline which means the Albert/Franchise Tag dance will happen once again next season, this time with a built-in replacement in the form of Fisher.

Is it worth giving him a long-term deal? The answer is no, not with his injury issues, and after spending the number on pick in the draft on a left tackle. But the Chiefs hand may be forced if Albert has a good and healthy season in 2013, and Fisher suffers an injury, or has performance issues.

For now, Albert is still with the Chiefs and his presence may give Kansas City their best offensive line since Will Shields, Willie Roaf, and Brian Waters defended the trenches.

Apr 26, 2013; Kansas City , MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs first round draft pick offensive tackle Eric Fisher (72) poses for a picture with head coach Andy Reid (right), chairman Clark Hunt (second from left) and general manager John Dorsey (far left) during a press conference at the Kansas City Chiefs Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City possessed one the more bizarre offensive lines last season in all of football. While Jamaal Charles ran his way for 1,509 yards, the offensive line ranked just 19th in the NFL in run blocking, according to Football Outsiders. While KC was among the leaders in 2nd level, and open field blocking (see: Charles, Jamaal), the Chiefs were in the bottom third of the league in power run blocking (23rd). As a result, the Chiefs were terrible in short-yardage and goal line situations because they could not get the necessary push in those situations.

Part of the problem was less about the lineman involved, and more about the lack of a passing attack, which allowed opponents to gang up on the run, and dare the Chiefs to throw the ball. While the Chiefs did see some issues throughout the line in those situations, especially in the middle of the line, where Ryan Lilja was asked to play center for most of the season.

While the run game could stand to improve, the biggest area of concern was the passing game. The Chiefs allowed 40 sacks last season, which was among the most in the league. When one considers the Chiefs passed very little last season – attempting the fourth fewest passes in the NFL last year – the 40 sacks take more weight. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn combined to be sacked on 7.8% of passing plays, or once about every 13 passing plays.

There were three culprits to this problem: The quarterbacks, Jeff Allen, and Eric Winston. Quinn and Cassel did not help the offensive line with their insistence on holding the ball four seconds too long on every pass play. As a result, there were sacks allowed that had little to do with the pass protection, and more to do with the quarterback’s decision-making. Meanwhile, Winston allowed six sacks last season, and the rookie Allen was graded out by Pro Football Focus (PFF) as the worst offensive linemen on the Chiefs starting line.

Still, with all of these issue the Chiefs were ranked as the 12th best offensive line by PFF,and the unit has only gotten better with the additions of Geoff Schwartz and Fisher, plus the return of center Rodney Hudson. PFF believe Schwartz has Pro-Bowl potential if the Chiefs were to name him the starter at right guard over Allen, which means the weakest position on the line could become one of the strengths. If Allen wins the job, then one can (hopefully) assume, he has improved greatly over the offseason.

Throw in the return of Rodney Hudson at center, and the Chiefs offensive line could be among NFL’s best.