Scouting the AFC West: Offensive line

A position breakdown of the AFC West offensive line. Who is the best player? Has the most to overcome? Is the true unsung hero? Who has the most to prove? Who will improve the most? Are any San Diego Chargers on the list? tackles these questions and many more.

Mr. Overrated: Barret Robbins (C) Oakland Raiders

Robbins will never be able to live the Super Bowl fiasco down and the problems only start there. Robbins underwent knee surgery in the off-season hoping to salvage his career. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Two years ago, Robbins was one of the premiere centers in the league. But like so many players, he let his off the field problems carry over onto the field. To add insult to injury, Robbins will now be looking over his shoulder at training camp, for highly touted rookie Jake Grove will be vying for his spot.

Mr. Underrated: Casey Wiegmann (C) Kansas City Chiefs

Oftentimes centers do not get the credit they deserve. For the Chiefs, the majority of the publicity goes to William Roaf and Will Shields. While both these players are certainly deserving, Wiegmann has just as much value on Kansas City's line as the other two. It is understandable that many fans are not familiar with Wiegmann. He was a late bloomer only playing in four games in his first four years. Better late than never they say. Wiegmann, slowly but surely, has developed into one of the most dependable centers in football.

Old faces, new places: Ron Stone (G) Oakland Raiders

Stone is still trucking along and will provide valuable help to a team that badly needs it. Oakland is currently in the process of revamping their offensive line. They have been disappointed in players like Mo Collins and Frank Middleton. They needed a crafty veteran to provide much needed leadership, and also, to set an example for the newcomers. For Stone, the decision was not too hard. Including the other free agents Oakland has signed, it is obvious the Raiders are looking for immediate results, unlike Stone's former team across the bridge.

Is he Yoda or a waste of space?: Lincoln Kennedy (T) Oakland Raiders

Kennedy has never quite lived up to his billing. He would have a good year and make the pro bowl, and then the next year either take a step back or get injured. After this past season Kennedy announced his retirement, but the water remains murky on whether it is really forthcoming or not. Even though he is not the perennial pro-bowler many expected he would be, Kennedy could still prove to be valuable in this league somewhere if not at Oakland.

Put up or shut up time: Toniu Fonoti (G) San Diego Chargers

There is a fine line between anger and pity when it comes to Fonoti for most Charger fans. When entering the league two years ago, Fonoti was not yet legal to buy alcohol. Apparently, the stress and stardom has overloaded his young mind. Fonoti ballooned in the off-season to almost 400 lbs. As of now, he is currently enrolled in a weight loss clinic trying to slim down for training camp. Well, this is the NFL and not a day care camp. If Fonoti does not show up to camp fit and ready to play, the Chargers just might wash their hands of him.

Same name, new player: Courtney Van Buren (T) San Diego Chargers

Van Buren is a massive prospect who is still very raw. He was thrown to the wolves last year when he should have spent most of his time, if not all, on the practice squad. Because of injuries, the Chargers had no choice. This year will be a different story. Not only has Van Buren moved to a position more suited for his skills and lack of experience, he now knows what to expect. Van Buren is still going to make mistakes, but considering the effort he consistently puts forth, it will not be long before the lights turn on.

Not quite there yet: George Foster (T) Denver Broncos

Ready or not here he comes. Foster spent last season on the inactive roster. Denver would have loved to get him more snaps in preparation for this year, but the fact they did not will not change their immediate plans. In the off-season Denver released Ephraim Salaam and moved Matt Lepsis to the left side to make room for Foster. Luckily, the young tackle has a very experienced group around him. Foster will be singled out by most defenses and will be forced to adjust to the speed of the game rather quickly.

Newest addition with the biggest impact potential: Robert Gallery (T) Oakland Raiders

Surprise, surprise. Gallery was by far the highest rated lineman in the draft this year. With so many needs, Oakland decided to shore up the left side of their line for the next ten years. Some gurus were exclaiming that Gallery has Tony Boselli type potential, but there is concern over his small wing span. The thing is, Gallery's feet are so quick he could be armless and still buy the quarterback four seconds to throw the football. There are three AFC West defensive coordinators sighing at the moment because of the nuisance they now have to put up with for the next decade.

On the hottest seat: Barrett Robbins (C) Oakland Raiders

Robbins has been on the hot seat ever since his Super Bowl fiasco two years ago and will remain there until the end of his career. Even if he makes the pro bowl for the next five years, will Robbins ever live down his collapse in San Diego? What was supposed to be a great moment for Oakland fans embarked a serious of events the Raiders just assume forget. Robbins sparked the beginning of those events, and despite it being over a year ago, it is still a very sore subject amongst Raider fans.

El numero uno: Will Shields (G) Kansas City Chiefs

An argument can be made for William Roaf and this award, but the truth be known there are probably eight tackles in the NFL that are as good if not better than he. Shields, on the other hand, is arguably the best offensive guard in football. Shields has been to the pro bowl nine times in his career, and baring injury, he should continue to be a frequent visitor to Hawaii. It is said Shields is the most fundamentally sound offensive lineman in football. After just eleven years of play, Shields has already reserved his spot in Canton.


Best run blocker: Matt Lepsis (T) Denver Broncos

Lepsis was vital in breaking the franchise rushing record for Denver last season. Denver is hoping that his skills at the right side will carry over to the left. It is no secret he can run block, but now, his pass blocking skills will be put to the test.

Best pass blocker: William Roaf (T) Kansas City Chiefs

Roaf is like a good bottle of Port. For every year that passes his worth increases. Roaf has done an excellent job of using his experience to off set the effects of aging. Do not be fooled, though, despite being 34 Roaf still can move with the best of them.

Best technician: Will Shields (G) Kansas City Chiefs

Shields remains the best not because of his superior athleticism, but because he is one of the smartest players in the NFL. Unfortunately for the AFC West, his knowledge of the game is something that will never deteriorate.

Most versatile: Ben Hamilton (G-C) Denver Broncos

Because he can play both the guard and center position rather well, Hamilton has been a life saver for Denver. Since center Tom Nalen has a history of injuries, Hamilton is a valuable commodity Denver will likely hold onto for a while.

Best pull blocker: Brian Waters (G) Kansas City Chiefs

It is no surprise Waters is one of the better pull blocking guards in the league. Waters is a former tight end and is athletic enough to play tackle. He is also a very good pass blocker and will be a key contributor on the best offensive line in football.


1. Kansas City Chiefs: This was an easy choice considering the Chiefs have the best offensive line in all of football. Even though the Chiefs lost John Tait, they added Chris Bober and John Welbourn who both started sixteen games last season.

2. Denver Broncos: If it was not for relying on a first time starter in George Foster, the Broncos might have given the Chiefs a run for their money. That fact aside, this is still the same line that broke a franchise rushing record last year.

3. Oakland Raiders: The Raiders got tired of the constant underachieving. A lot of former starters' job will have to be earned back in training camp. But with the additions of Ron Stone and "can't miss" prospect Robert Gallery, things are starting to look up.

4. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers promised to address the offensive line woes in the off-season. Now only one starter returns and the new additions are not exactly what the fans had in mind. The administration must have a plan, for a lot of jobs are depending on this group.

ALL AFC West Team

C- Casey Wiegmann- Kansas City
C- Tom Nalen- Denver
G- Ben Hamilton- Denver
G- Will Shields- Kansas City
G- Ron Stone- Oakland
T- William Roaf- Kansas City
T- Matt Lepsis- Denver

Next time around, receivers and tight ends ...

Byran Martin can be reached at

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