First Quarter Grade: Offensive Line

You could attribute the Kansas City Chiefs offensive struggles to a number of issues, but first, let's focus on the offensive line. The line's inability to consistently protect quarterback Trent Green contributed significantly to the Chiefs losing two of the first four games.

Mike Nugent - The Chiefs limp into the bye week after dropping their last two games. After roaring to a promising start where the boys in red dismantled the New York Jets at Arrowhead, then scraped out a tough win against the Oakland Raiders on the road. The next two games were a farce, where the Chiefs were thoroughly beaten by the Broncos on national television, then surrendered an 18 point lead against the Eagles enroute to the biggest home collapse in Chiefs history.

This season the offensive line has been a tale of two lines. The Chiefs' line protected fairly well in the first two games, even after losing all-universe tackle Willie Roaf to injury. The offensive line opened up holes in the running game, allowing running backs Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson big gains.

Against the Raiders, the Chiefs overcame a huge size disadvantage and used their mobility to control the line of scrimmage. At Denver, the Chiefs were brutalized by defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, who beat every Chiefs offensive lineman, including Pro Bowl players Brian Waters and Will Shields. The Chiefs allowed three sacks and a couple handfuls of hurries against the Eagles, who although initially overwhelmed, took control of the game in the second half.

Offensive coordinator Al Saunders was so concerned with the Eagles rush, that he held Tony Gonzalez, the most prolific receiving tight end ever, in to help the offensive line. The Chiefs are battling injuries along the line. The loss of Willie Roaf hurts, for sure, and blocking tight end Jason Dunn has been battling a knee injury all season, but the Chiefs can't use that as an excuse. Reserve offensive tackle Jordan Black has been starting in Roaf's place, but he gets overpowered at times. Still he's playing a brand new position and trying to replace a legend. That's not easy for anyone.

The Chiefs are also missing reserve offensive lineman John Welbourn who was the starting right tackle a year ago. He has finished his four game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Once he returns the Chiefs are going to have to make a decision as to whether to put Welbourn in at tackle in place of current starter Kevin Sampson, or keep him as a reserve. Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil didn't rule out that possibility in Tuesday's press conference. Welbourn has not worked at tackle since last season.

Nick Athan - For the last three years, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line has been the staple of their high powered offense. It's been the most solid and cohesive group on this entire football team and one of the best lines in the history of the NFL. But trouble was brewing for this group since the first days of training camp and they've yet to recover.

The starters on this offensive line have been unable to work together based on a plethora of things including injuries, missed practices and age. Willie Roaf, Brian Waters and Will Shields didn't practice together until late in training camp. Kevin Sampson the expected starter at right tackle was injured off the blocks in the teams first preseason game. Not to mention Vermeil's insistence on resting his veteran offensive line as much as possible. Thus its been downhill for this group from the start.

I won't make excuses for the absence of Willie Roaf but the Chiefs didn't lose their last two games because Roaf was on the sidelines. They lost this because the interior of their line has not played very well.

Will Shields, Brian Waters and Casey Wiegmann have not been solid the last two games. The turning point in the Eagles game was the fumble by Larry Johnson. But it was not his fault considering the fact, he never had the ball in his hands because of the penetration up the middle by the Philadelphia defense.

The middle three have been caught a bit flat-footed the past two weeks. Yes they are trying to help the young tackles but they're not finishing off their blocking assignments. Waters and Shields need to get back that mean streak and fast. Because right now they're getting beat far too often. That has to change coming out of the ‘Bye Week' because if it doesn't, this second quarter could end in disaster for the Chiefs.

Roaf needs to be 100% going into the Redskins game and Kansas City must make an early determination next week if Jordan Black, Kevin Sampson or John Welbourn is going to start at right tackle to open the second quarter of the season. All three are capable but its in the Chiefs best interest to get either Sampson or Black ready to start a week from Sunday. With that done and Roaf back in the line-up, then Tony Gonzalez can return to the passing offense instead of being used to pass block. Jason Dunn will be healthy entering the Redskins game so he can chip in on the right side of the line if necessary.

But the success of this offensive line has been the guys in the middle and thus far they've not played to their All-Pro abilities. Trent Green, Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Eddie Kennison and Gonzalez can make the plays down the field. But that plan only works if the offensive line plays like the one that has been so dominate from 2002 – 2004.