Litmus test for Chargers defense

The San Diego Chargers have the offensive line that is overlooked and the Kansas City Chiefs have a line that is revered as one of the best in the league. Despite the absence of Priest Holmes, the Chargers run defense will face a tough test this week.

They have two Pro Bowl veterans, one a bookend on the left side and another anchoring the interior on the right.

Willie Roaf has been to nine Pro Bowls in 11 seasons and is what every team aspires to have from a left tackle. He is an excellent pass blocker and has the agility to move outside in the running game. An All-Decade member for the nineties, Roaf has helped Kansas City annually be one of the top offenses in the league.

Will Shields has been a lifelong Chief and has performed at a Pro Bowl level in nine of his first 11 seasons – same as Roaf. His ability to open holes for a running back earned him respect from his peers. Sunday's start will make give him the longest streak in Chiefs history for consecutive games played with 187. He may be the best pulling guard in the league and when the tough yard is needed they often run behind Shields.

"That offensive line is the best offensive line in football," Chargers' head coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

With Priest Holmes running behind the line, it makes it even scarier. Luckily for the Bolts, Holmes will miss Sunday's game but that just means Derrick Blaylock will get to carry the rock. Holmes he may not be but that doesn't mean the success hasn't continued as if he was.

"That offensive line is all I need to say," linebacker and ex-Chief Donnie Edwards said. "They have been together for a long time. They are very established. They have two nine year Pro Bowlers on either side. It is a nice line and those guys can make holes for anyone."

Kansas City remains third in the league in rushing average at 4.7 per carry and third in rushing yards per game (154.2) and they are tops overall in rushing touchdowns.

They also are the number one offense in the league – total offense, not to be confused with total scoring. They have poured on over 400 yards of offense each game and are third in the league in scoring, behind San Diego and Indianapolis.

It is the best offense that the Chargers have faced this season.

"We have our hands full," added Edwards. "It is going to be a nice matchup for us. Our defense is ranked number one against the rush so it is going to be a nice little battle."

The difficult task of slowing down the offense will rest on the defensive line. They will need to not only be as stout against the run as they have been but also must register some pressure and effectively take on double teams to force Trent Green. Otherwise, their secondary may have a rough day.

The Chargers line has beefed up this season with a three man front. Jamal Williams runs well over his 305 reported weight, Jacques Cesaire checks in at 295 and Igor Olshansky is 310. They do not get muscled off the ball and effectively take on the line so the linebackers can make plays.

The penetration up front is one of the main reasons the linebackers are able to shoot the gaps. But this is a Chiefs offense that can turn the best defense into a Swiss cheese.

"We have to keep working and stay humble," linebacker Randall Godfrey warned.

The shortened week – since game tape from the Chiefs Monday night game arrived late means the team must work on their own game and remain responsible in their assignments.

They have picked up the defense far quicker than anyone anticipated but this week will be a true barometer of their success.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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