The Kansas City Chiefs beat the New Orleans Saints on the road. It was a big win for a team that started the year 0-2 and was facing a lost season. The Chiefs will play host to the division rival San Diego Chargers in Week 3, and with a win, could have a share of first place.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they will be without their starting center, Rodney Hudson, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a broken leg (via the team's official website). The offensive center makes the protection calls and works closely with the quarterback to diagnose blitzing defenders.
Hudson’s loss will not go unnoticed.
The Chiefs spent a great deal of the offseason preparing Hudson to take over for veteran center Casey Wiegmann after his retirement, and he was performing above expectations considering it was his first stint as an NFL starter.
With Hudson sidelined, veteran left guard Ryan Lilja will start at center and rookie Jeff Allen will start in Lilja’s place at left guard. The shuffling of the offensive line could have a domino effect on the performance of the entire group.
Lilja will start his first NFL game at center, and his roles and responsibilities will change. According to ProFootballFocus grades, Lilja has been the Chiefs' best offensive player as a left guard. Considering how well Lilja has been playing at guard, there is no guarantee he will be able to sustain the same success at center.
One notable disadvantage Lilja will have at center is against big nose tackles because he is 10 pounds lighter than Hudson. Obviously, Lilja is a veteran and he’s smart and he should be able to get the job done, but there’s just no guarantee he will be as good at center as he was at guard.
In just 57 snaps in Week 2, Allen has already graded out as the worst offensive player on the Chiefs per ProFootballFocus grades. Lilja allowed four pressures in 133 passing plays, and Allen allowed two pressures in just 25 passing plays. Hudson had allowed just one pressure in 108 passing plays.
It’s not just pass protection that could be an issue with the reshuffled offensive line. The rush offense and Jamaal Charles finally arrived last week, and a big part of the success was sweep plays to the left in which Lilja was able to reach linebackers at the second level. If Allen can’t have the same success, the Chiefs might struggle to replicate the success they had against the Saints.