Early Challenges Lead to Future Depth

ST. JOSEPH, MO - The offensive line that catapulted the Kansas City Chiefs rushing attack to the top of the NFL in 2010 vaguely resembles the one we've seen the first weekend of training camp.

With so many holes to fill, the Chiefs are further away from solidifying a starting lineup than anyone felt they'd be at this point. But there is a silver lining.

When long time Kansas City Chief, Brian Waters was released last week, the number one priority in this years training camp became finding a suitable replacement to fill his vacancy.

Unfortunately, with the new CBA rules, many players expected to compete for starting spots have yet to arrive at camp. And that's forced the Chiefs coaching staff to shuffle their offensive line from one session to the next.

On Thursday, some of the regulars and starters will re-join their teammates in St. Joseph. But until then, the Chiefs are very week in numbers; especially on the offensive line.

One of those players reaping the benefits of the new labor deal is second year offensive guard, Darryl Harris.

A year ago in St. Joseph,Harris was an emerging rookie. But a knee injury early in camp, derailed his promising work.

This year Harris was hit with yet another twist when the Chiefs asked the young player to start taking reps as the teams starting center. Although Harris had taken some reps at the center position towards the end of the 2010 in controlled practices, the former guard never anticipated he'd be making a career change this season.

"As soon as I got to camp they told me I had to go back to center," said Harris after Sunday's practice. "I just got to role with it. That's the card I was dealt."

But for the moment, the the lack of bodies on the offensive line isn't all negative. As offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Muir points out, a lot can be gained by the extra reps.

"It's not frustrating really when you think about it", said Muir about the necessary shuffling of players. "All of these players have to develop multiple position skills. Under these circumstances we are doing them a little earlier than we would like but we were going to do it sooner or later. But the extra work has been very beneficial."

But his status as a starter is going to change on Thursday, when veteran center Casey Wiegmann come back into the fold. And that means the Chiefs will relocate Harris back to his natural position of guard.

But he's not the only young chip the Chiefs have along the offensive line. Second round pick, Rodney Hudson was drafted as the teams center of the future. But that spot appease to be on hold. It doesn't sound like Head Coach Todd Haley is going to entrust that assignment to the young and talented player from Florida State.

Also returning next week will be veteran tackle Ryan O'Callaghan, who will likely take over the right tackle spot upon his return, unless tackle Barry Richardson is resigned. At this point we don't know the status of Richardson, but its safe to say that the Chiefs are exploring all options including retaining last years starting right tackle.

In Richardson's absence the Chiefs have rotated second year man, Bobby Greenwood and mammoth rookie, David Mims. Both players give new meaning to the word, raw. Greenwood converted from defensive end to tackle just last summer. And it appears the space between the lockout and training camp, hasn't been to difficult for Greenwood. He does not look out of place.

On the flip side there is nothing small about Mims. Standing at 6'8" and 335lbs, Mims is already one of the largest tackles in the NFL. But after playing the past four years at Division II, Virginia Union, Mims uphill battle to make the 53-man roster could be difficult. But should he make it, long term he could become a fixture on the Chiefs offensive line.

The good new is that Haley and Muir have a good amount of time to put a solid group of linemen together to be ready for their first game. But odds are they're going to need every last second of it to make those decisions.

But until then Harris however is just enjoying the opportunity to compete and says he's just happy to play where he can fit in the best for his team.

"I'll play wherever the coaches want me," said Harris. "If they need a corner, I'll play corner."

WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
The offensive line has its feet to fire until the veterans come back on Thursday.


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