Step 3: Fixing the Offensive Line

In our first two steps toward returning the Chiefs to their winning ways, we discussed what to do with Larry Johnson and Tony Gonzalez. The next step is even more difficult, as Kansas City must fix the offensive line before we hit step four, the quarterback. So how do the Chiefs fix the struggling right side of their offensive line?

The left side of the unit is fine. There is not a single person in the Chiefs' organization who doesn't believe drafting Branden Albert was a wise move. He's the lockdown left tackle this team has coveted since the retirement of Willie Roaf.

Albert has not only fought through injuries, but has also dealt with learning on the job at left tackle, as he was primarily a guard at the University of Virginia. Albert has become a leader for the Chiefs' heralded rookie class of 2008, and he's someone the veterans are starting to respect.

Between Albert and left guard Brian Waters, there's little issue on the left side. After that the waters get muddy.

The jury is out on young center Rudy Niswanger. He's coming off major knee surgery, and to his defense he's never played center in the NFL until this year. Whether he's the future or not is anyone's guess, but this year has been a learning experience for him. The fact that Niswanger has had a new quarterback to deal with almost every week has also made life difficult.

Right now Niswanger doesn't get great leverage, and at times he's blown off the line of scrimmage. The hardest thing for a young center is to learn to snap the ball, block your first assignment, and if you're still standing, hit another player. Only experience will make Niswanger adept at that. Eventually the talent will take over, but he needs a full year and a healthy offseason to solidify his position.

The rest of the line is a mess. Adrian Jones, a castoff from the New York Jets, was the primary culprit on KC's failed third-down running attempt late in the fourth quarter last Sunday. He was supposed to pull, but instead allowed Kris Jenkins to penetrate. Jenkins tripped up Smith who stumbled to the ground a yard short of the first down.

Jones has been beaten all season long and isn't the answer as a starter for the Chiefs or any other team in the NFL.

At right tackle, Damion McIntosh, who moved from left tackle with the drafting of Albert, has not adjusted to his new role at right tackle. He has never really looked comfortable and no one on the line has allowed more sacks.

So what can the Chiefs do to fill their talent voids on the line?

Second-year tackle Herb Taylor did an outstanding job during the preseason when Albert went down with an injury. Can he fill the hole at guard? The Chiefs need help at tackle, and though Taylor isn't quite 300 pounds, he has fluid feet and he does an outstanding job of leveraging his body to stonewall defensive linemen.

Taylor has played some at right tackle, but struggled against the Titans with two penalties. The jury is out on him, but Taylor, along with Wade Smith, need to spend some time at guard before the season ends.

Where does that leave the Chiefs at right tackle? They may have the answer on the roster already, but rookie Barry Richardson is as raw as they come and not ready for a starting job just yet. He fell in the draft because of some questions about his work ethic, but right now the game is just too big for him.

However, with a strong conditioning program and some one-on-one time with his offensive line coach, Bob Bicknell, Richardson could turn into the perfect bookend tackle opposite Albert.

Regardless of what happens with Taylor and Richardson, the Chiefs will likely acquire two guards and another tackle in the coming offseason, as they have to find an eventual replacement for Waters, who turns 32 in February.

Next – Step 4 – Finding A Franchise Quarterback

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