The team that lines up against Green Bay nine days from now might look slightly different from the one we last saw in Oakland. Neither side of the ball is perfect – especially the offense – so we here at Warpaint Illustrated have a few suggestions of our own. Hopefully at least one of these will stick.
1. Bench RG John Welbourn
With the retirement of future Hall of Famer Will Shields, the Chiefs thought they could slide Welbourn, who had started 55 games at left guard, into the right guard spot with little dropoff. Unfortunately, they thought wrong.
Right now, Welbourn might be the weakest link on KC's offensive line. He's not particularly strong at the point of attack, he's not all that mobile, and Warren Sapp completely exposed him in pass protection last Sunday. I'd wager the Chiefs could pull a free agent off the street and he wouldn't be any worse than Welbourn is at the moment.
A lineup change needs to happen. Maybe it's Rudy Niswanger, who played some guard during training camp. Maybe it's Herb Taylor, who was drafted as a tackle but was regarded by some as a possible guard in the NFL. Someone needs to be given an opportunity, perhaps even practice squad lineman Tre Stallings, because Welbourn's been a complete bust filling in for Shields so far.
2. Re-sign CB Justin Phinisee
Eddie Drummond is simply not getting the job done at kick returner. The blocking hasn't been great, but Drummond is going nowhere on kickoff returns (21.1 average), and at times he hits the pile so hard you worry about fumbles.
The Chiefs need someone who can make a guy miss. Phinisee showed an ability to do that in preseason, and actually probably got a raw deal (and was pretty upset about it on Hard Knocks) in being replaced by Drummond at the last minute. The St. Louis Rams cut Phinisee last week, so he's just sitting around on the couch right now. Get him in town fast and get him some practice time so he can take the field for the next game.
3. Bench SS Bernard Pollard
Everyone loves Pollard's attitude, but at the moment he's not living up to expectations. He's biting hard on play-action fakes far too often, and it's costing the Chiefs, as it did a week ago in Oakland when Pollard's error left Ronald Curry wide open in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Even worse, Pollard isn't even hitting guys, and for a player whose nickname is "The Bonecrusher," that's a little embarrassing. The only real hit Pollard has had all year came against Jacksonville, at the end of a long run by Maurice Jones-Drew. He's not a force right now in run support, either, and the Chiefs need that from their strong safety position (Sammy Knight was superb in this role a year ago). Pollard is even missing tackles.
The most exciting things Pollard has done this year? A little bit of dancing in the locker room in training camp, followed by a gift interception against the Bengals in Week 6.
It's time to give Greg Wesley his old job back, especially since he appears to have been re-energized by losing his status as a starter. And by all means, give Pollard as much playing time on special teams as possible, where he absolutely dominates.
4. Continue running from spread formations
I was slightly encouraged by the progress the Chiefs showed in Oakland in their running game. Obviously, it wasn't a great afternoon, but I felt like someone had read last week's column about running from three-wide receiver formations. The Chiefs did a little of this against the Raiders.
Kris Wilson would often motion out from his fullback position to a spot out wide. Almost every time, he took a player with him (leaving seven in the box), or widened the spacing between defenders. It worked – sort of.
Larry Johnson gained 27 yards on seven carries from single-back, three-wide formations. An eighth carry went for 54 yards – obviously skewing the average – but that's progress. The Chiefs really ought to expand their use of spread formations in the future. Right now the I-formation and double tight end sets are still struggling.
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