Eric Winston, Not Peyton Manning, Was Biggest Offseason Addition in AFC West

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystJuly 6, 2012

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 26:  Tackle Eric Winston #73 of the Houston Texans locks up with defensive end Jason Hatcher #97 of the Dallas Cowboys during the fourth quarter at Reliant Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

If Peyton Manning is healthy, he's the biggest add in the AFC West. He's a future Hall of Famer. In the scenario where Manning isn't healthy or he's never the same after the injury, there's another player that came into the AFC West that was a huge addition.

It's right tackle Eric Winston, who was surprisingly released by the Houston Texans and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Using ESPN Insider and the Scouts Inc. player grades, the difference between Manning and Tim Tebow is 27, and the difference between Winston and Barry Richardson is 22. Both are huge upgrades. Obviously, Manning's grade is when he is healthy and based upon when he last played.

There is just no certainty Manning will be the Manning we all remember from a physical perspective.

Eric Winston played in Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme in Houston, and the Chiefs are switching to the zone-blocking scheme in 2012. It's not a complete change in philosophy, but the Chiefs are expected to use the zone-blocking scheme the majority of the time.

Just as Manning will help the Broncos with a new offensive system, Winston will help the Chiefs' entire offensive line get used to the new blocking scheme.

Projected starters Rodney Hudson and Jon Asomoah are already using Winston as a resource, and the Chiefs drafted Jeff Allen, who's a good fit in this zone-blocking scheme, in the second round of the 2012 draft.

Winston is a coach on the field because neither offensive coordinator Brian Daboll or offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. are known for being zone-blocking advocates. So while the team slowly transitions to the scheme, Winston will be a valuable resource for the other offensive linemen and the coaches.

Winston and Mike Brisiel anchored the right side of the Texans offensive line, and Winston will bring that production to the Chiefs in addition to his knowledge of the zone scheme.

The Texans led the league in first-down rushes to the right and was second in runs of 10 yards or more. Much of that is due to schemes and the execution of the offensive linemen.

The running game is obviously important to the Chiefs, as the team struggled without the services of Jamaal Charles in 2011, averaging under four yards per carry. With Charles back in the mix and a revamped offensive line and transitioning blocking scheme, the Chiefs are banking on the running game to continue to be a big part of the offense.

In 2010, the Chiefs as a team averaged 4.7 yards per carry, and Matt Cassel had a quarterback rating of 93.0. In 2011, the Chiefs averaged 3.9 yards per carry and Cassel had a quarterback rating of 76.6. It's pretty clear the Chiefs should be a run-first team, and that should continue as long as Cassel is the starting quarterback.

The Chiefs have a potentially explosive offense, and the offensive line, as a unit, can be the group that turns that potential into a reality. Eric Winston is now the leader of the offensive line in Kansas City and, outside a healthy Peyton Manning, is the biggest offseason add in the AFC West.