Mid Term Grades Pt. 1: Offense

Eight games into the 2006 season, the Chiefs are in good position to make a playoff push with a 5-3 record. Given the extensive disruption the team has overcome after losing their two starting tackles and quarterback Trent Green, this record has been an extraordinary achievement. For the most part, my grades reflect this success.

Overall: A-

Under the circumstances, no one could have expected this team to perform better. After losing Willie Roaf and Trent Green, two players most analysts said the team could not afford to lose, the Chiefs defied conventional wisdom to post a winning first half. The only ding to their fine first-half performance is the win they left on the field in Denver (I do not really fault them for the debacle against an inspired Pittsburgh team). The Chiefs were in position to pull out a huge win on the road, only to watch the Broncos steal what has become a key victory. Had the Chiefs come home with the victory, they would now be in command of the AFC West with a 6-2 record and wins over both San Diego and Denver.

Quarterbacks:

Trent Green: Incomplete

Green only managed to stay on the field slightly more than two quarters in the first eight games, suffering a severe concussion on opening day. He really hasn't had much performance to grade.

Damon Huard: A+

Huard has been the backup quarterback every coach dreams about. After not starting a game for over five years, Huard has performed like an All-Pro signal caller. He has completed 65 percent of his passes, thrown 11 touchdown passes and only one interception, and won five of his seven starts. His quarterback rating is an astounding 105.2, second in the NFL behind Peyton Manning. Herman Edwards will have a difficult time putting Huard back on the bench once the medical staff clears Green to play.

Running Backs:

Larry Johnson: A-

Johnson has been the horse that has carried the team. He has faced defenses stacked to stop him after Green went down in Week 1. Johnson has met this challenge in outstanding fashion. He's third in the NFL in rushing yards (816), second in rushing touchdowns (nine) and second in total yards from scrimmage (1,145). The only reason this grade has a "minus" is a two-game stretch vs. Arizona and Pittsburgh. Johnson gained less than 40 yards rushing in both games (26 and 36). Those poor performances have left Johnson with a pedestrian 4.1 yards per carry for the season.

Priest Holmes: Incomplete

Holmes has not been able to get back on the field in over a year after suffering a serious spinal injury during the 2005 season. At this point, I would be shocked to see him play again.

Michael Bennett: D

Bennett has failed the primary responsibility of a good backup: availability. Bennett has only suited up for four of eight games due to injury. Even when he has been on the field, he has hardly lit the world on fire with only 71 yards on 20 carries (3.5 yards per carry). While he has shown flashes that suggest he might be a credible backup if the team needed him to start a game, he has had a poor first half.

Ronnie Cruz: B

Ronnie Cruz replaced two-time pro bowl fullback Tony Richardson and did a credible job for five games until he went down with an injury against Pittsburgh. Cruz was a competent lead blocker and even showed some ability to gain tough yards as a ball carrier. Unfortunately, the team placed him on IR and he is out for the remainder of the season.

Kris Wilson: A After Cruz was lost for the season, backup tight end Kris Wilson moved to a fullback/H-back role. His play has been nothing short of extraordinary. Wilson has silenced concerns about his lead blocking with numerous outstanding plays, including a perfect block to spring Larry Johnson for a 45-yard gain last week in St. Louis. More importantly, Wilson has made clutch plays in the passing game, including two touchdown receptions and a critical fourth-down conversion against Seattle. Wilson has carved out a niche for himself in this offense. Look for Wilson to play a bigger role in the second half of 2006.

Dee Brown: F

Brown was forced into action as the primary backup for four games. His performance was nothing short of terrible. In one memorable sequence against Arizona, he fumbled on two consecutive goal line carries. Fortunately, the team recovered both times. Brown nearly cost the team an important victory.

Receivers:

Tony Gonzalez: A

Gonzalez has been his dominant self this season, leading all NFL tight ends in receiving yards (504). He has been a terror dragging tacklers after the catch and has put up numerous big plays in the middle of the field. Over the last two seasons Gonzalez has become the most complete tight end in the league, showing better blocking skills than earlier in his career.

Eddie Kennison: B

Kennison has been a reliable threat this season (26 catches, 425 yards), but his production has been slightly off since Green went down. Kennison did have a spectacular fingertip grab of a 51-yard pass to set up a come-from-behind win against Seattle.

Samie Parker: D

In his third season, Parker has failed to step up his game. Supposedly a deep threat, Parker only has one big play to his credit (a 43-yard reception last week against St. Louis). He has been unreliable as the second receiver, with far too many drops to trust on critical downs.

Rod Gardner: D-

Gardner has taken over Dante Hall's role as the third receiver after the team plucked him off the waiver wire in Week 4. He has had little impact, with only two receptions for 17 yards. To be fair to Gardner, he has had to learn the playbook on the fly.

Offensive Line:

Jordan Black: A

After struggling early in the season, Black has settled down and become a solid left tackle. While many will have an issue with this high grade, Black has been good enough to allow the team to open up its offense in the last three weeks. His performance as the blind-side pass protector has exceeded everyone's expectations after he struggled on the right and left sides in 2005. He is a fifth-round pick who has maximized his talent.

Brian Waters: A

Waters has been his normal dominant self this season until a knee injury forced him out of last week's game in St. Louis. The team expects Waters to miss 2-4 weeks. Hopefully, he will be back on form for the final push at the end of the year.

Casey Wiegmann: B

Wiegmann has been solid this season, but has not been as active in leading outside running plays and screens. I wonder if his age (33) is beginning to show.

Will Shields: B+

Shields has been good, but not great, so far this season. Like Wiegmann, he has not been as dominant clearing the outside running lanes. The last few weeks he has stepped up his game. His performance reminds me of last season when he started somewhat slow, but hit his stride in the middle of the year. I suspect his reduced training camp schedule, designed to preserve his aging body, has slowed his early season performance. Give him a B+ for performance, but an A for smart management of his physical resources. I believe the performance grade will be another A by season's end.

Kevin Sampson: C

Sampson has been solid as a run blocker, but has struggled against speed rushers all season. His pass blocking has improved. Unfortunately, he missed last week with an injury, but Kyle Turley did a solid job in his place.

Jason Dunn: A

Blocking tight end Jason Dunn has never been more important to the team than he has this season. After both starting offensive tackles from 2005 left the team, Dunn has been called upon to help out the new starters. Dunn has answered the call.

Kyle Turley: C

Turley began the season as the starting left tackle, then went down Week 3 with a recurring back injury. Jordan Black has since replaced him. Turley subbed or Kevin Sampson in Week 9. While Turley has missed a lot of time, you really could not expect better with his fragile back that has limited him to 265 pounds. Turley may have a valuable role on this team as a specialty blocker against speed rushers in the second half of 2006.

Chris Bober: A

Bober has seen extensive action in only one game this season, after Brian Waters went down in the first quarter last Sunday. Bober stepped in and did a magnificent job, helping to clear the way for Johnson to gain 172 yards against an admittedly suspect Rams run defense. With Waters out for 2-4 weeks, the team really needs Bober to continue this performance.

John Welbourn: F

Welbourn first let the team down by failing a drug test for the second consecutive year. He missed six games with an NFL-imposed suspension, forcing the team to scramble to find a replacement. When he got back on the field, Welbourn promptly gave up two sacks to Leonard Little in limited game action. He will have to perform better in the second half to justify the disruption he has caused this season.

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