For two years now, numerous Chiefs fans, followers, and pundits have spoken of the wisdom in drafting a replacement for starting left tackle Branden Albert. A 2008 first round pick (courtesy of the Jared Allen trade), Albert was drafted as a tackle despite playing as a left guard throughout college at the University of Virginia (Albert played alongside tackle Eugene Monroe, the eighth overall pick in 2009).
At the end of the 2009 season, left guard Brian Waters spoke out in defense of Kansas City's offensive line to the Kansas City Star, which I later wrote about (insert blatant plug here).
True to form, Waters' teammates did not disappoint in 2010. The Chiefs allowed 32 sacks on the season, six of which came against the San Diego Chargers in Week 14 while starting quarterback Matt Cassel was sidelined following an emergency appendectomy. Kansas City finished the season #13 in sacks allowed. Subtract the Week 14 fiasco, and the Chiefs would have tied for sixth with New Orleans.
As for the running game, Kansas City dominated the NFL with 2,627 yards on the ground. Rising star running back Jamaal Charles literally came within one carry of breaking Jim Brown's record of 6.40 yards per carry - a record which has stood since 1963.
Despite these successes, Albert's name has come up two years straight as a weak link in the Chiefs' offensive line. For two years, the talk has been of drafting a new left tackle and moving Albert elsewhere. More than once, it's been suggested that Albert move to his "more natural position" at right tackle, despite never playing the position before in his career.
The numbers don't lie, however, and the numbers say Albert has been a solid performer for the Chiefs. Beyond Kansas City's overall success on offense, Albert and Waters should receive due recognition for their efforts rather than the doubt seen this off-season.
In 2010, the Chiefs' offense executed 64 rushing plays of 10 yards or more. Of those plays, 33 - more than half - were run to the left side. 15 of those plays went up the middle, and 16 to the right side.
That's right: more than 50% of the Chiefs' big-play successes on the ground came through Albert and Waters' personal playground. It's doubtful Charles or Thomas Jones are home on Thursday night with rushing titles under their pillows hoping the Draft Fairy will leave a new left tackle in the morning.
Albert is certainly not the best left tackle in the history of the NFL; in fact, Willie Roaf and John Alt both have him beat hands-down for the best in Chiefs history. But Albert gets the job done. And while draft prospects such as Gabe Carimi and Anthony Castonzo would likely be solid additions to an offensive line that was neglected for years, a shake-up at left tackle is not what Kansas City needs.
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