Today, we do our damnedest to get the story straight with the offensive line for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Let's face it, this is not exactly the offensive line of the future. The depth chart I'm seeing puts three guys projected to start that can easily be considered to be in their twilight years (Wiegmann, Welbourn, and Terry). That said, while we boast a strong left side of the line, I'd put money on us having a rather average OL this year.
We're rid of some of last year's cancers (Black is gone and Chris Terry, who is superbly durable, will likely solve last year's revolving door at RT), but while the McIntosh signing was amazing value for our buck, Chiefs fans simply have to resign to the fact that you can't build an entire team in one offseason.
This unit seems blown up, but it was on its way. Roaf was done. Shields was done. Wiegmann's right there. Welbourn's not far behind. Along with the incompetence that had infested our defense, our offense became the league's oldest, a major weakness that Herm has done his best to address across the board.
You can only do so much in two offseasons. Herm's rebuilt the DL, revamped the LB, given us two safeties of the future, brought in a promising crop of young WRs, and groomed the QB of the future. In all that change, we can't say much about the OL except he seems to have built a unit this year that can last until next year, when a brilliant crop of OTs flood the Draft.
But this year, a year of transition, this is a unit built merely to survive, not to dominate.
Instead of examining the OL player by player, we go over the entire unit position by position, weighing the Pessimistic viewpoint against the Optimist. We leave it to you to decide.
(Likely starter: Damion McIntosh. Other candidate: Will Svitek.)
Glass half empty: Damion McIntosh is an OG moved to OT. He's only a stop-gap solution, because there's no way this big slob will be able to handle speed rushers. Good LTs are an extremely hot commodity -- if he was so good, why did the Dolphins let him go and why did the Chiefs sign him for so little? Svitek's a 6th rounder, and has been nothing but injured for the Chiefs. He looked good in NFL Europe, but that's a far cry from being a good OT in the NFL.
Glass half full: First of all, nobody could be worse at LT than Jordan freaking Black. You could put a ham sandwich out there and it'd have the same production. McIntosh is the perfect stopgap LT until we get a stud who can pin the position down. Over the last two years, McIntosh gave up a grand total of nine sacks with virtually no holding penalties -- that's very good, I don't care what his natural position is. And he did it on a bad OL. McIntosh can play OG, too, so not only is he pretty talented, he can play at least four positions on the OL if need be.
(Likely starter: Brian Waters. Other candidate: Chris Bober.)
No arguments against Brian Waters. He's an All Pro OG that is a leader in this offense.
(Likely starter: Casey Wiegmann. Other candidate: Rudy Niswanger.)
Glass half empty: We've been waiting for Niswanger to show us anything since we picked him up last year, and he hasn't seen one minute of playing time. Part of that is because Wiegmann is an iron man, but part of that is that Rudy just can't beat him out for the position even though he's heavier and stronger. Wiegmann, in the mean time, is agile and smart, which is perfect for a complex offense that uses a lot of fast sweeps and pulls him out to the wing -- but in Herm's offense, a simple, down-your-throat offense, he's simply not strong enough. He got beat a lot last year by stronger DTs.
Glass half full: The time is right for Niswanger to make an impact. Herm's settled in for a year, he's seen the offense at work, and now he might realize that a burlier center is what this offense needs. Wiegmann's old and undersized, and isn't a fit for this offense, but he's still a talented player and he wants to play -- he can hold the fort while we wait for Niswanger or a future draftee to take over.
(Likely starter: John Welbourn. Other candidates: Chris Bober, Herb Taylor, Tre Stallings.)
Glass half empty: How on earth do you replace a talent like William Shields? Certainly not with a guy who's almost as old as Shields was, and once suspended for steroid usage. John Welbourn has stunk the times he's played on our OL, even if it was at OT. Who the hell even knows if he'll play the whole season? What if he tests positive again? Bober's not fast enough to play, and Herb Taylor and Stallings are late rounders who didn't play this position in college.
Glass half full: Will Shields was elite for many years, but the decline last year was obvious. Losing him is not a major loss. Replacing him will be a guy who played next to the Man Himself on the OL for years. John Welbourn wants to play, and he's finally going to get a chance to play his natural position -- one he did quite well at when he played there in Philadelphia. He's a proven starter, and should be an improvement over the next year or two. If nothing else, he's a great stopgap until a younger guy develops or until we draft a stud.
(Likely starter: Chris Terry. Other candidates: Will Svitek, Kevin Sampson, Herb Taylor, Ramiro "Mexitackle" Pruneda.)
Glass half empty: We have no earthly idea who's going to play here! Is Chris Terry in trouble with the law, or not? Is Svitek NFL material, or not? Is Kevin Sampson capable of staying healthy for more than four games, or not? Is 6th rounder Herb Taylor worth anything, or not? Have we seen anything promising from the big Mexican, or not? It doesn't matter -- all of these guys range from barely decent to flat out bad.
Glass half full: RT was a revolving door in 2006. Nobody played that position for more than a handful of games last year. In 2007, we're going to get some stability -- just as soon as we figure out who the hell's there. Svitek's been said to have earned the position thus far. Terry's a proven quality starter who will take the starting position if he stays out of trouble. Sampson played admirably when he stayed healthy. Taylor and the Mexitackles are unknown quantities at this point. But consistency will help.