Before Jamaal Charles burst onto the scene with a 108-yard rushing performance in week 10, Kansas City fans clamored for a revamped offensive line.
Atrocious in protection, the offensive unit surrendered 42 sacks in 2009, but the majority came in the first half of the season.
The inability to give the quarterback time to let plays develop is also a cause for quarterback Matt Cassel’s troubling 5.9 yards per completion last season.
While the offensive line jelled, it was still clear there was room for improvement.
Kansas City’s front office management has addressed this concern with two offseason signings: the return of center Casey Wiegmann and guard Ryan Lilja. (Lilja was part of the KC practice squad under head coach Dick Vermeil before being cut and signing with the Colts.)
Both players were full-time starters last season, Wiegmann for the Broncos and Lilja for the Colts.
What does this mean?
Well, the speculation of moving Brian Waters from left guard to center can be laid to rest. Wiegmann will assume the duties of center.
While he is now 36, Wiegmann made the Pro Bowl as recently as 2008. The only knock on the 285-pound Wiegmann is he can be troubled by the bull rush. Still, he is a smart blocker who is an iron man with a 127-game starting streak.
Lilja, born in Kansas City, will likely be the starting right guard in the city of his birth.
It’s common to hear commentators speak of how “(general manager Scott) Pioli seems to have a plan, and he’s executing it.” The last part of the plan is a probable drafting of a new left tackle.
While I am a personal fan of Branden Albert and believe his athleticism means his ceiling is not yet hit, should a top-five draft pick be spent on a tackle (the popular choice among analysts being low-ceiling, high pro-readiness candidate Bryan Bulaga of Iowa), Albert will likely move to the right tackle spot.
So the core of the offensive line is made up of savvy, proven veterans, two with Pro Bowl appearances, and the tackles are the youthful cornerstones of the offensive line’s future.
What about the future?
Wiegmann is 36, Waters is 33, and Lilja is 28. Lilja was recently signed to a three-year deal, so it’s clear he is part of the short-term solution, with the two old-timers, for the Chiefs.
However, it’s vital to note that successful offensive lines, while made up of individual players, become exceptional as a unit.
It is the consecutive starts as a unit of offensive lines for teams like the Giants or Colts that lead to the most success.
It’s hard to imagine an offensive line with two players in their mid-30s being part of a long consecutive start streak.
While there is obvious improvement on paper, Kansas City is going to look to fill the interior of the line through the draft and complement their young, talented tackles.
Expect Kansas City to take some offensive linemen in the middle rounds and look to build a cohesive line within the organization.