So apparently the race for the AFC West may have gotten a little more up in the air. Thanks Von Miller! Of course, even if the Great Hipster is gone for four games (which is still up in air at the time of me writing this), the Broncos are going to be a tough team to beat as long as the great and powerful Fivehead is taking their snaps. Unless he's been partying with Von, of course... (sometime test the man! Quick!)
All that aside, I'm much more interested in what's happening with the Chiefs right now. I mean, it's all well and good to laugh at another team's misfortune, but it's a whole lot more fun to talk about the Chiefs (well, except for last year. That was hardly ever fun). Over the last month I've written some predictions for our defense, because United States federal law requires all football blogs to meet an offseason quota of prediction columns. (Lists, too. We'd better get on that.)
(Maybe that's not what you called it. That's the sound I made the most often while watching it, so it became an affectionate nickname of sorts. Kinda like the way you'd nickname your herpes virus to make it seem more "fun." Also, I think I need to cut back on parenthetical asides for a couple minutes before I get in trouble. I usually wait at least half a column to jump to STDs...)
So yeah, the Chiefs offense last year. 13.2 points per game. Eight passing touchdowns. You know what? I just completely lost the will to continue after that second one. I'm not going any further on why the offense was bad. Eight passing touchdowns. Over 16 games. THINK about that. I'm going to quote one of our fine members (insert dirty joke) regarding the passing game. H/T to saskwatch for making me want to peel my own face off every time I read this (which is his sig):
In 2012, the Chiefs' QB's only threw 4 more TD's to Chiefs players than they did to opposition defenders.
Yes, you read that right, the Chiefs passing offense netted 24 points over a 16 game schedule (1.5 points/game).
Let it burn, Chiefs fans. Let it sink into your soul. THAT was the Chief's 2012 offense. It didn't matter what Jamaal Charles did. The passing offense was one of the worst in history. That's what happens when you combine inept coaching and abysmal quarterback play.
Now it's a new year. New head coach. New coordinators. New quarterback. So what does this season hold? Time for more predictions. Because I'm weak and frail and can't handle comment abuse today, I'm saving Alex Smith predictions for another day. Today we're going to look at offensive line predictions.
Prediction No. 1: Jeff Allen will, against all odds, win the battle for the LG spot.
I might as well jump right in to make up for skipping on Smith. I, of course, was the first voice to start calling for MOAR Jeff Allen as early as last year's preseason. I admit, I may have jumped the gun a little. In my defense, I was completely intoxicated with Kool-Aid at the time from watching Allen basically tie up and beat the Seahawk's 2nd stringers with a battery-filled sock. It caused me to get a little carried away.
Of course, we all know how the season went down. Rodney Hudson got hurt. Ryan Lilja slid over to center. And Allen got thrown into the fire WAY too quickly. Some say he sucked. Some say he was mediocre. Pretty much no one says he was great. And so, in comes Geoff Schwartz, a massive veteran G/T who has some starting experience. Also, after the drafting of Eric Fisher, in comes Donald Stephenson taking some snaps at the guard spot during OTAs. Naturally, being the calm and thoughtful bunch we are... it is instantly assumed Allen is out and those guys are in.
I beg to differ. I believe Allen gets a bit of a bad rap around here. In my opinion, Jeff Allen was exactly what you would expect from a talented rookie who was thrown out against NFL players a year sooner than he was ready. I haven't done extensive film review (although I did re-watch over 40 snaps against the best DL in the league) on the guy, but I have at least watched him to an extent when re-watching the games. And I think the kid's got what it takes.
The good thing about Allen is that he's got power. Lots of power. He's also got quite a bit of athletic ability for a big, strong guy. The Ravens game showed that. He stood toe-to-toe with Haloti Ngata and held his ground. It's not a matter of whether or not he's capable of running with the big boys.
No, the problem for Allen last year was that he was a rookie. A rookie who got worked over by quicker players with finesse, veteran moves. And I freely admit that a few games he got WORKED OVER, with the caps lock necessary to really emphasize how bad it was. The problem is that we as fans (because this is what we do) took those individual games like the Raiders game and decided that Allen's a terrible player based on that one game. And as we all know, once a fan has made up his or her mind, that's end game.
(What do you MEAN I'm subject to the same rule and that's why I like Allen?)
But it's not like Allen didn't have more than a few very solid games as well. Watch the tape of the Bengals game. Or the Panthers game. Or the previously-mentioned Ravens game. Then tell me Allen doesn't have what it takes to play in this league. His struggles have been a tad overstated here and elsewhere. He gave up three sacks, six hits, and 13 hurries during his time at guard. No, it's not great. But it's nearly as bad as some would pretend. In fact, none of them are in the bottom 10 of the league. So the next time someone talks about how Allen was "the worst guard in the NFL" last year, ask them to explain how they got there. Because the stats don't back that claim up, and neither does the film.
(Since many of the people who don't think Allen can play also bemoan the loss of Wade Smith, I'd suggest taking a second to go look at the number of sacks, hits, and pressures Smith gave up this last year. Go ahead, I'll wait.)
Allen has a ton of physical talent. He needed time to adjust and prepare for the pro game. He didn't get that time thanks to Hudson's injury. But he managed to keep from crapping the bed in a situation where most rookies would have. With a tough year behind him, Allen will be better this year for what happened in 2012 (Unless he doesn't. In which case I'm gonna be super mad at him).
I predict there's a bunch of talk about Allen losing the spot to Schwartz, but that at the end of the day he holds down the spot.
Prediction No. 2: Rodney Hudson plays well, calming everyone down.
Before getting hurt last year, Hudson had given up one quarterback pressure. No hits, no sacks. Just one quarterback pressure. Now to be fair, he was part of a game in which the Bills' defensive line seemed to live in the Chiefs' backfield. However, that can be chalked up a lot more to Big Jon Asamoah (everyone has a tough game now and then, big guy), Eric Winston (who?), and Ryan Lilja (happy retirement, Ryan!).
A year out with injury (combined with the classic Scott Pioli "slow play" treatment at offensive line) has made people forget just how decorated Hudson was coming out of college and how stoked most of us the Chiefs were able to get him. Barring health concerns (which have not presented themselves), Hudson will be back in action. And the offensive line will be better for it.
Prediction No. 3: At some point this season (maybe more than once), Eric Fisher is going to have a stretch that makes us freak out.
It can't all be sunshine and Kool-Aid, can it? Nope, it can't. I don't hate Fisher as a pick. And I think he should do fine as a tackle (and if he doesn't, Dorsey / Reid will have a TON of explaining to do). But he'll be a rookie. Rookies generally struggle when they first get into the league. And a rookie taken first overall has a whole slew of expectations to deal with, expectations that don't care about rookie struggles. You're taken No. 1 overall, you're expected to dominate. Like now.
And I don't think Fisher will dominate. Maybe I'm wrong and he plays lights out right from the get-go. But I don't see it. I said leading up to the draft there wasn't a single tackle prospect I liked as much as I liked Matt Kalil the year before, and I stand by that. By all accounts Fisher is big, strong, athletic, and hard-working. But I can't shake this nagging feeling that he won't do very well out of the gate. And I fully expect Chiefs' fans everywhere to lose their minds when this happens.
Am I trying to get prevent all this with a reverse jinx? Maybe. I think we should move on.
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction No. 4: Unless Donald Stephenson sucks in practice, Eric Fisher underperforms AND Branden Albert absolutely lights it up, Albert will be gone after 2013.
That's a lot of things that need to fall a certain way for Albert to get a long term deal. I don't see it happening. I really, really like Albert as a player. But considering they couldn't get the deal done this year, you know he's looking for top tackle money. And unless Stephenson and Fisher disappoint, there won't be a reason to do it. Even if one of them doesn't do anything to instill confidence in Reid, it's always possible to get a decent right tackle (of course, the Chiefs tried to prove this theory incorrect for years, so maybe not).
In my opinion, the worst case scenario is that the Chiefs sign Albert for huge money after this season. Because that will mean that Fisher can't handle the left tackle position AND Stephenson can't handle anything at all. It would feel great to keep Albert, but long term I'm rooting for the young guys. I hope you earn a huge payday this year, Albert. I just don't think it'll come from the Chiefs.
Prediction No. 5: Jon Asamoah continues to improve and plays at a Pro Bowl-level.
Note that I didn't say "Jon Asamoah will make the Pro Bowl." That's because when it comes to offensive lineman, familiarity rules the day. Think of it like a Congressional election; if you've been there before you basically have to suck to not go back. And even then, it still might happen.
So Asamoah might not make it to Hawaii. But he'll play at a high enough level to deserve it. It's been a steady uphill climb for Big Jon.
Year 1: Starts two games in place of injured players. Doesn't suck, but that's about it (sound familiar? MOAR Jeff Allen sunshine!)
Year 2: Moves to full time starter. Solid pass protector with some weakness as a run blocker. Average.
Year 3: Becomes a very good run blocker and goes from "average" to "solid."
No reason to believe that in year four, after three years of major improvement every single year, he'll suddenly stop improving. I think he's got an outside shot at being the Chiefs best offensive lineman in 2013.
Michael Hickey-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction No. 6: The offensive line will be good to very good this year.
This kind of follows from the preceding five predictions. I look at the Chiefs offensive line and the only place I'm not VERY comfortable is left guard. And as I said, I see Allen building on an uneven rookie campaign. While Fisher probably won't light it up, I'd be stunned if he weren't at the very least decent.
The offensive line is much more a sum of its parts than it is about any individual player. In my mind, the only way a player can make or break an offensive line is if a player is an anchor. I don't believe the Chiefs will have an anchor this year. I think they'll have very good play at three positions (LT, RG, RT), solid play at one (C), and at least average play at another (LG). When you put an offensive line together without a glaring hole and with several "plus" positions, you're looking at a very good line.
In my mind, even if Allen takes a step backward or doesn't develop at all, the Chiefs will still be fine at left guard. Geoff Schwartz is not a Pro Bowl guard, but he's solid. So the worst the Chiefs are looking at regarding any position on the line is "average." I like the sound of that.
Of course, all this is contingent on the line's health. I'm going to now go and gather all the 4-leaf clovers while throwing salt over my shoulder continuously.
(Send mailbag questions to MNchiefsfan@hotmail.com or tweet to @RealMNchiefsfan)