Chiefs offensive guard Brian Waters has spent the last ten years protecting teammates, whether opening lanes for running backs, or holding off defenders as his quarterback looked for the open receiver.
It makes perfect sense, then, that he would come to the defense of his fellow linemen now.
Waters recently spoke to the Kansas City Star about the development of the line, implying their recent performance should be used to measure their effectiveness, rather than the lackluster showing from the start of the 2009 season.
Waters has been the lone constant on the offensive line, providing the physical and emotional anchor for a unit that has watched Hall of Fame talents Will Shields and Willie Roaf retire in recent years.
Now, despite a 4-12 record and allowing 45 sacks for 261 yards in the season—a far cry from Indianapolis's league-leading 13 sacks for 90 yards—a closer examination shows more to praise about the Chiefs' offensive line than what might be apparent at first glance.
Of course, any positive discussion of the Chiefs must start with Jamaal Charles.
Charles finished the season on a hot streak, rushing for over 100 yards in each of his last four games—including a team record 259 yards in the season finale against the Denver Broncos. And as a testament to Waters and left tackle Branden Albert, of the 11 rushes over 10 yards, eight of them were to the left side, with two up the middle and one to the right side.
Granted, four games does not a season make, and despite the impressive stats Charles has put up, this does not erase the alarming number of sacks or the limited success the Chiefs have had rushing to the right side.
Additionally, Waters and Albert both have regularly been flagged for offensive holding and false starts, which can often kill a drive before it starts.
Similarly, depth has been a major issue; not just this season but even during the high-powered offense days of Dick Vermeil. Chiefs fans vividly remember Jordan Black allowing sack after sack in the Chiefs last playoff game in 2006 following Roaf's retirement, or the 2007 season as Shields went off into the sunset.
By shifting Waters to center, he will be able to continue anchoring the offensive line while having fewer physical demands—and hopefully fewer holding calls. Albert could be moved to wherever he will perform best, while the pair of second round picks and a singular free agent signing would complete a revitalized offensive line.
The remainder of this year's starters, meanwhile, would be retained to provide solid depth and a healthy rotation for the Chiefs in 2010.
Clark Hunt and Scott Pioli cannot make the same mistake their predecessors were guilty of.
Prior to Branden Albert in 2008, the last time Kansas City spent a first round pick on the offensive line was John Tait in 1999. The next highest was Brett Williams—a fourth rounder in 2003.
With Waters a month removed from his 33rd birthday and a right side which has seen a revolving door at both positions, Kansas City must solidify their line this season if they hope to play in any meaningful games by the time snow starts falling next winter.