Fixing the Chiefs Offense: Running Backs and Linemen

alton rexCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 11: Guard Brian Waters #54 of the Kansas City Chiefs lines up for a play against the New York Jets with tackle Willie Roaf on September 11, 2005 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Chiefs won 27-7.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

A friend of mine recently claimed new Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli's Rule No. 4 was: Never re-sign a running back to a big contract. Or something to that effect. And I think there's much to be said for his point, particularly if you can sign them out of college for five or six years.

Folks tend to forget the average career of a RB is five years. RB's like Edgerrin James and Barry Sanders leave a bigger footprint in our minds than we realize.

Still, if you get a highly productive guy young, and after five years he's still sound...a guy like Priest Holmes, then I don't have a problem with signing him to a new deal.

I know a lot of folks whine now about how Priest got hurt after he got his big deal, but he played his butt off for us for five years for chicken-feed. He deserved that money if he never took another snap.

It's a totally different deal than LJ. Priest was always the consummate pro: good in the locker room, in the community, and as a spokesman on the camera.

Best of all, he was humble. LJ had a chance to learn the right way from Priest's example and failed. Yet another example of how LJ is a jerk.

I think KC can trade LJ, and basically stand pat with Kolby and Charles without a problem, and here's why: the real problem is the O-line...not the RB's, but not for a lack of talent.

Lots of folks think KC's O-line is bad, and they didn't play well last year, but that does not mean there's no talent. It means they were handicapped by pitiful offensive schemes and coaching.

The scheme was bad because they didn't have enough talent at tackle; really only Albert is big enough to play tackle. When he was hurt, the entire line was over-matched because of the shifts to compensate.

And they had a 9-foot freak playing center. I'm still trying to figure out why Herm cut Weigman. He's still playing well for the Broncos.

I like Niswanger's skills, and he might even be able to play right tackle, but he's simply too tall to be a starting center in the NFL on an every game basis. His center of gravity is too high for him to get leverage under the better nose tackles in the league.

Maybe Niz can be OK for a game or two at center. He may also be serviceable at center for another full season, but I hope we can move him to tackle, or maybe find a place for him as a utility guy who moves around NS, so the other guys don't have to when someone gets hurt.

The rest of the line; well there's the pro-bowl left guard; he's OK as long as he's not whining about his contract. And Herb Taylor is an absolute stud. The job he did at LT early last year while Albert was out hurt was an incredible display of grit.

He's not really big enough to be a full-time tackle, but I think he could be the long term solution at RG. He just needs a chance, and why he never got one from Herm is beyond me.

So, basically I think we need two more guys. A front line RT and a center. I think we can find a center real late in the draft, and I hope to Gawd we take a RT with our 3rd round pick this year.

Unless, of course we take one of the top two LT's with our No. 3 overall pick (though I think we're going for Curry or DT/DE there) unless Curry is gone and they don't like any of the D-linemen that high and they can't trade down.

I really believe Pioli is going to insist on getting third-pick talent AND character from a pick he's going to have to guarantee that much money to. And if that means drafting a LT and moving Albert to RT, that's OK with me.

Bottom line is the o-line will be much improved this year for three big reasons: 1) Last years additions will be better because of their experience. 2) Haley will do a better job of designing a scheme and assigning responsibilities than Herm did, and that in turn will allow the talent we currently have to develop. 3) They will bring in more talent -- talent appropriate to the jobs we have open.

If I'm right, these changes in our offensive line will allow Kolby to be the back he was when we first drafted him, and Jamaal will become the huge threat we know he can be.

They will fine as our top two RB's. Though we do want to look at younger free agents and what's available late in the draft for depth.

Trading LJ is a no-brainer at this point.

Maybe we can get and older/serviceable DE and a second round pick for LJ? If so, we can address the RT issue in Round 2 and it makes us a lot more flexible with what we can do at No. #3 if Curry is gone.

With or without LJ, this offense has a lot of work to do. Though I do think a lot of the problems we had on the o-line after Thiggy Smalls took the reins had more to do with his inability to see the passing lanes than it did with our line play. Going to the spread aided him enormously, as it opened up his field of vision.

I like Thigpen, particularly his grit, but I'm not sold he's an every down QB even in the spread. And I'm not sold on the full blown spread either.

I prefer four- and five-wide in a pro set/West Coast kind of thing. But I'm going to wait and see what they put on the field before I start trying to tell Haley and Pioli their business.

See the thing is this: we don't really know what kind of offensive we have now. Cassel and Engram certainly change the dynamics; particularly with how much their presence will open up the field for Gonzo, Bowe, and the running game.

Plus, a high percentage, low turnover QB is going to take the heat off the defense too. I have to say, without signing a big money free agent, the new regime at Arrowhead has already got my juices flowing. And we still have six weeks until the draft.

KC is going to be better this year, and I won't be surprised if they're in the hunt for the Division title either.