Why? It's very simple. The name "Jordan Black" has had a stigma attached to it in Kansas City for months now. Any mere utterance of that name would cause Chiefs fans to cringe.
They knew what it meant. Sacks, interceptions, bad offense. When Willie Roaf went down last year, Black almost became public enemy No. 1 in Kansas City. He was the anti-Roaf. The monkey wrench thrown into the works.
And now it's 2006. Black is starting at left tackle for the Chiefs and has been since Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers.
And guess what? He's doing a fantastic job.
2006 started badly for Black. He gave up 4.5 sacks from his right tackle spot against the Bengals on opening day. Chiefs fans responded by beating themselves in lamentation.
But the move to the opposite side of the line has done wonders. The Chiefs are averaging 135 yards rushing since Black became the weakside protector. In games Black has started at left tackle, the Chiefs are scoring 23.6 points per game.
Forget about the old guy, Jordan Black. He's gone. The Chiefs are starting Brian Black at left tackle this year.
Sure, the Chiefs averaged 345 yards per game with Black in the lineup a year ago. And yes, they are now averaging 328 yards per game. That's a dropoff, but not where it counts.
With Black getting their backs, Chiefs quarterbacks have been sacked once every 16 dropbacks this year. That's only a marginal improvement over 2005 (once every 13.7 dropbacks), but when you consider that Damon Huard (and his lack of pocket awareness) was starting for much of this year, it's a noticeable improvement.
The real difference is in turnovers. The Chiefs turned it over 12 times in Black's six starts last year. In his nine starts at left tackle in 2006, the Chiefs have committed only seven turnovers, if you throw out Brodie Croyle's garbage-time interceptions against the Steelers.
Clearly, that's a huge improvement. But wait! There's more!
According to Stats, Inc, Black was responsible for eight sacks a year ago. This season he's given up only 3.5 from his left tackle position. That compares favorably to marquee left tackles around the league.
Peyton Manning's blindside buddy, Tarik Glenn, has allowed three sacks and has actually committed more penalties (six against three) than Black in 2006. Baltimore's Jonathan Ogden has given up 3.5 sacks. Minnesota's Bryant McKinnie has allowed four.
Heck, you want to hear the shocking stat of the year? Seattle's Walter Jones, who pretty much got all of the media praise that Roaf deserved while he was stll playing, has been a turnstile in comparison to Black. He's allowed a whopping 7.5 sacks. You know that Black would be getting destroyed in the papers if he was having that kind of season.
Black has really improved, but you don't have to take my word for it. Just listen to his quarterback rave about him.
"I think that Jordan has been the most improved player on the offensive side of the football when you look at the starting 11 and the impact that he's had," said Trent Green. "He has taken a lot of heat over the last couple of years, but I think the thing that has really helped him this year is that they picked a spot for him and he has stayed in that spot. In previous years he was bouncing from right tackle to left tackle to both guards, he was kind of a utility lineman and sometimes that's hard as a lineman to get settled into a spot. I think the fact that he's been able to be at the left tackle spot for a long time and getting comfortable, I'm real impressed with the way that he's handled it."
So, is Black playing well? Absolutely, but let's not all rush out to buy his jersey just yet.
The Chiefs have five games left. They face Cleveland, Baltimore, San Diego, Oakland and Jacksonville.
Four of those teams field tough defenses. The Ravens and Chargers in particular, especially with Shawne Merriman back for San Diego, will really test Black. Both squads have racked up 41 sacks.
The weakside passrushers that Black faces over these last five games have combined for over 30 sacks. With Kamerion Wimbley, Terrell Suggs, Shaun Phillips and Derrick Burgess staring him down, Black faces a veritable murderer's row of sack artists.
It's quite a challenge. Is Jordan Black ready for it? I think Brian Black is.
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