Bringing in two players from the Dolphins, it is more than likely that both of these players will have a spot on the nine-man OL roster come opening day against the Ravens. As much as Haley argues that the best players will be on the team (and I have every reason to believe that Alleman and Ndukwe are among the best 9 OL we have right now), draft picks are currency. We just spent some of that currency by trading for Andy Alleman and Ikechuku Ndukwe, and there's no chance we release these guys as we whittle down to the 53. They will be on the roster when we face the Ravens.
But where? And who does this push out?
Well as I drew up a depth chart not too long ago on this site that attempted to place what I thought would be the starting OL on this team (forgive the fact that I put ten players down instead of nine):
LT: Albert, Taylor
LG: Waters, Smith
C: Niswanger, Ghiaciuc
RG: Goff, Brown
RT: McIntosh, Richardson
So something is going to get shaken up here. We have gone from what was a fairly uncontroversial slotting of players into what is going to now be a very competitive fight. There will be at least one player released that may be controversial.
Joel did his damnedest to figure out what the right side of the line may look like, but I think the center position is now in flux as well, and the left side may also be affected by this trade. I am not fooled by the mothership's official depth chart.
I try to tackle the implications of this trade after the jump.
The starters on left side of the line is not particularly concerned with this acquisition. Branden Albert and Brian Waters are chisled in as starters, and both have played pretty well this preseason, Waters in particular. We do not have a better offensive lineman on the team than Brian Waters. But the depth behind them is now in question with this trade.
Herb Taylor has struggled a bit at left tackle this preseason, but he has enough of a track record that it is unlikely anybody could replace him. He has performed well in the past, and still has the measurables and athleticism needed to substitute in an emergency. Left tackles are like quarterbacks in the NFL, every team needs two, and Taylor fits the bill just enough.
Backup left guard is a question of what direction the Chiefs want to go in. If they want a known quantity that is able to handle several positions along the OL, veteran Wade Smith is your man. Wade Smith has filled in for this team now for a couple years everywhere along the interior, and he has played okay, but never well. This seems to be his roof -- whereas other players, such as Colin Brown or Darryl Harris, are much younger with upsides. While Brown seems to be destined towards the right side of the line, Harris may fit the bill, but Haley values versatility. Can the very young Harris man other positions in a bind? I believe he's headed to the practice squad.
When it comes to the center position, there is one thing I am fairly certain of: between Niswanger and Ghiaciuc, at least one of these players will be gone by the final cutdown to 53, if not both. Haley and Pioli have liked Niswanger's comgination of intelligence, mentality and ability ever since he got here. But given Haley would definitely be going against his track record if Niswanger was starting opening day, because Niswanger has really struggled throughout the preseason so far. The amount of yardage he gives up every game in up-the-middle push is unacceptable.
But Ghiaciuc isn't much better, and judging from his time in Cincinnati, he's worse. And this is I believe where Andy Alleman comes in. Not that I treat the official depth chart at kcchiefs.com as gospel, but Alleman plays everywhere on the interior line, and has gotten lots of time in at center. He did start for a little bit for the Dolphins last year, and it's possible that he provides a fresh set of talent for Haley to throw out there so he doesn't have to reward either Niswanger or Ghiaciuc for their poor performance. I believe that you will see Alleman starting by the fourth preseason game and he will not relinquish it by the time we play the Ravens to start the season. Haley will find a way to keep Niswanger on the team (backing up either center or RG), but Ghiaciuc will not survive the cut.
Right guard gets cloudier, especially with Mike Goff struggling. I continue to believe that Goff will be the starter come opening day, however, so long as Haley is focused with fixing the center position first. Goff is a great combination of leadership and experience, in addition to some ability, and this is what's needed on this team. Haley loves the guy, he'll likely remain the starter and there is zero chance he's cut from the team altogether, which unfortunately a few Chiefs fans are speculating may happen.
Backing him up is a simple question of who is the most versatile while being the most serviceable. Wade Smith is the known quantity we discussed from earlier, but I believe he's locked into the left side. Colin Brown is Pioli's first draft pick for the OL for the Chiefs franchise, but there is simply no way that Brown is ready. The chances of Brown playing any minutes this season that aren't garbage minutes are absolutely zero -- which is why I think Brown will end up on the practice squad. Ndukwe is a definite maybe because it is unlikely that Ndukwe gets to surpass both McIntosh and Richardson at RT by opening day, and his versatility along the right side would be a plus.
But I'm putting my money on Rudy Niswanger, who has Haley's support and has played fairly well at the right guard position in the past couple years when he filled in. Niswanger's versatility across the interior, where the Chiefs are thin, would be a plus as well.
That brings us to right tackle. It has been obvious from day one that Pioli and Haley were incredibly unhappy with Damien McIntosh for whatever reason. Maybe it's the fact that McIntosh hates the right side. Maybe it's the fact that McIntosh does not fit the stereotypical skillset for the right side. Maybe it's because McIntosh has struggled. It's probably a combination of all of these factors.
If there was one major cut I can see coming, it's McIntosh. Pioli and Haley have tried many things to replace him. They drafted Colin Brown initially as a RT prospect, but he was moved inside. They tried slipping Barry Richardson over him on the depth chart, but Richardson has sputtered. Now they've traded to bring in a right tackle in Ikechuku Ndukwe from the Dolphins. McIntosh is now fighting for his life.
His chances are slim to none. Barry Richardson has played serviceably enough for the Chiefs to give him the starter job for now, even though I feel McIntosh is still the better talent. Ndukwe himself has said he intends to be the right tackle for this team, and his versatility to slide over to RG gives him the edge over McIntosh, who has complained already about being relocated to another position. And I think that's our right tackle depth right there. Richardson will have to hold off Ndukwe, while McIntosh is out.
So what's keeping McIntosh from challenging Herb Taylor over at the backup LT? Talent-wise, not much. McIntosh has more experience there than Taylor, and is probably about even in terms of talent, if not even a little better. But Taylor can better be utilized on special teams. And this is no small factor: a couple reports suggest that McIntosh has simply not bought into Haley's program. Which is unfortunate for him, but it makes sorting out LT depth easier.
So my new, updated depth chart prediction for opening day, with practice squad included:
LT: Albert, Taylor
LG: Waters, Smith
C: Alleman, Smith
RG: Goff, Niswanger
RT: Richardson, Ndukwe
Practice squad: Colin Brown, Darryl Harris