There is no greater question mark on this team than our current offensive line, which according to OL coach Bob Bicknell himself, Waters is the only certainty -- even though we're not even sure what position he'll be at. As of now there is nothing close to a consensus as to who will play where. Not with Albert, not with Richardson, not with Niswanger or Adrian Jones or McIntosh or Svitek or anybody.
The closest we've got is the Star's Adam Teicher, who guesses in a recent article as to what the line might look like in September:
Edwards wouldn’t talk about his plans, but the Chiefs will probably line up with rookie Branden Albert at left tackle, Waters at left guard, Rudy Niswanger at center, Adrian Jones at right guard and Damion McIntosh at right tackle.
Now, Teicher has more connections than me inside the Chiefs organization (to this date, I've compiled approximately zero inside sources). Nevertheless, this particular lineup sounds fishy to me.
First off, the love for Adrian Jones comes from leftfield, considering that Jones doesn't have the look of a smashmouth lineman (at 6'4", he's listed at a fairly light 296 lbs). Jones' resume isn't that stellar either, having struggled for playing time under Herm himself in New York, and in 2005, the one year he was a starting tackle all 16 games for the Jets (13 games LT, three RT), he allowed eight sacks, was busted for false starting thrice, and was flagged for holding four times. Granted, the entire Jets team was patchwork at that point, and those aren't horrendous statistics, but they don't instill in me a lot of confidence in Jones. Did I mention the team's yards per rushing attempt were 3.5 in 2005? I'm not sold on Jones.
Second, there's a popular myth going around that McIntosh somehow might make an adequate RT. I'm not sold on this scenario, particularly because McIntosh is a finesse tackle rather than a smashmouth tackle. He's not a mauler. If McIntosh belongs anywhere on this team, it's at LT, or backup LT.
Now, the best philosophy possible regarding building an offensive line is that you take your five best players, and you fit them on a line in any way you can. Are Albert, Waters, Niswanger, Jones, and McIntosh our five best? I'm not sure... Allow me to float a few ideas out there of what our OL could look like.
After the jump, of course.
The following are in no order of preference, all the lineman are arranged from LT to RT.
This is a sheer power unit. Instead of worrying about fitting McIntosh in somewhere, why not place in five of our toughest, strongest OL and install the mauling run game this offense requires to succeed. As I've detailed before, I'm not sure if Albert is LT material, but he's much tougher than McIntosh and why not just throw the boy into the fire if we expect him to succeed there?
Niswanger impressed most fans in his short stint on the field last year as being technically sound and stronger than expected. He could become the classic undrafted no-name whose smarts and technique elevates him to a longtime starting job. The gigantic and powerful Richardson is likely getting a shot on this team, but the Chiefs may want to try him out at guard before moving him out to RT. Taylor, meanwhile, impressed late in the season in garbage time at RT and LT. If he continues to improve he could clamp down our right side.
This is the classic "let's bring our rookies along one step at a time" Carl Peterson move. Even though we clearly drafted Albert for LT, and Herm has indicated he's eyeing Richardson for RT, it's possible they keep McIntosh at LT so Albert can learn the ropes of tackle first, then bringing him in as a LT in 2009. Same thing here with Richardson, who has the tools but many question his mental toughness. So why not try his toughness out on the inside and if he thrives, move him out as Albert switches sides.
I personally would like to see Herb Taylor get another shot at LT rather than using McIntosh, our classic stopgap. But that's very unlikely at this point.
The Chiefs flirted with the idea of moving Waters inside to center soon after the season ended, and I thought I'd toy with it here. Center is a position of extreme importance on the OL; if LT is supposed to be the physical freak, C is supposed to be the intellectual leader. The center is responsible for line calls, eyeing blitzes, and loads of nonverbal communication with the quarterback. Waters could fill that role for a season as Croyle learns the ropes and as the line is decorated with young, inexperienced players.
If this happens, watch for Albert to replace Waters at LG, so that Larry Johnson has a guaranteed hole in the defensive line he could run through. Niswanger has too much potential to keep out of the lineup, so expect him in at the other guard position if he can't play center. Richardson could be tried out at RT, and McIntosh will play at least one more season on the left flank.