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2010 Position Preview: Offensive Line

Posted Jul 30, 2010

An intense position battle at center is expected to fuel this group at training camp

Back for more: Branden Albert; Colin Brown; Darryl Harris; Ikechuku Ndukwe; Rudy Niswanger; Ryan O’Callaghan; Barry Richardson; Brian Waters

Welcome to KC: Jon Asamoah (draft pick); Tyler Eastman (rookie free agent); Lemuel Jeanpierre (rookie free agent); Andrew Lewis (rookie free agent); Ryan Lilja (free agent); Casey Wiegmann (free agent)

Departures: Andy Alleman; Mike Goff; Jermail Porter; Wade Smith

2009 Starts: Niswanger (16); Waters (15); Albert (14); O’Callaghan (12); Goff (7); Alleman (3); Ndukwe (3); Richardson (1)

Career Games Played: Wiegmann (195); Waters (147); Lilja (66); Niswanger (46); O’Callaghan (40); Ndukwe (33); Albert (29); Richardson (16); Harris (1); Asamoah (0); Brown (0); Eastman (0); Jeanpierre (0); Lewis (0)

Preview: When the big boys take the practice field later this afternoon in St. Joseph, there will be plenty of tussles for slots in the reserve ranks. With the exception of center, most of the reps among first-teamers on the offensive line remained consistent this off-season.

A pair of incumbent starters in left tackle Branden Albert and left guard Brian Waters took nearly every single first-team rep at their respective position during OTA work (read more about Albert and his role in training camp here – Insider Blog: Influence Through Action). The same goes for newly (re)acquired right guard Ryan Lilja. For the majority of the spring, returning starter Ryan O’Callaghan took most of the reps at right tackle, although Barry Richardson received a small amount of first-team reps as well.

At center, however, is another story.

Veteran Casey Wiegmann was (re)acquired this off-season to compete with his former mentee Rudy Niswanger. The two split first-team snaps this off-season and the position battle is expected to continue through training camp and into the preseason. Wiegmann carries a ridiculous consecutive snaps streak of 9,078 that dates back to 2001 and Niswanger was the only Chiefs offensive lineman to have started all 16 games in 2009.

The two players have very different frames, but play the same brand of football. If you’re looking for a position battle to watch along the offensive front at camp, key on these two blue-collar players.

The reserve battle and right and left tackle is another intriguing storyline on the offensive line. Unless a veteran is brought in before the regular season, Kansas City will be relying on a youngster to step-up this summer – particularly if Ikechuku Ndukwe remains on the interior line, as his did this spring.

Richardson and Colin Brown are two prospects that the Chiefs hope can blossom. Richardson has played sparingly since entering the league in the sixth-round of the 2008 NFL Draft, but is entering his third season and has the physical traits that go along with the NFL standards for the position. Brown has bounced around between guard and tackle since his fifth-round arrival in 2009 and is somewhat of an unknown commodity due to injuries as a rookie (the Chiefs officially list Brown as a guard heading into camp).

Rookie free agent Tyler Eastman will also try to prove himself worthy of a roster slot at camp. If none of the youngsters impress, the Chiefs have the option of leaning on Ndukwe once again. Though he had never played the position in a regular season game, Ndukwe started the first three contests of 2009 at right tackle. Just where Ndukwe reps over the next few weeks could yield clues to the Chiefs plans at the position.

Outside of Ndukwe and Wiegmann/Niswanger, a sea of rookies will be battling for roster slots along the interior offensive line. Third-round pick Jon Asamoah enters with the spotlight on him for his reserve work at the guard positions, and possibly even center. He enters camp as part of the Chiefs future at the position.

Once it’s all said and done with the names that Chiefs fans recognize, there will still be competition and possibly even a roster slot (or two) remaining for a rookie free agent. Darryl Harris spent the majority of the season on the practice squad in 2009, but was impressive as an undrafted player last preseason. He was retained and is looking to work into the rotation at guard. The versatile Lemuel Jeanpierre and left-handed center/guard Andrew Lewis round out the position group.

Each of Kansas City’s rookie offensive linemen, whether they make the team or not, will benefit from an off-season of learning under the guidance of Wiegmann, Waters and Lilja. Who knows, even if it’s not with the Chiefs, the experience could pay off for them down the road. That was certainly the case for Lilja when he was tutored by Will Shields, Willie Roaf, Waters and Wiegmann as he entered the league..

Quotable: The following player or coach quotes occurred this off-season, relative to the position group.

Lilja on his camp experience as an undrafted rookie…

“When you’re a rookie, especially an undrafted guy, and you come into a group like they had on the offensive line, you just kind of keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open and some of the stuff that I learned from C Casey (Wiegmann), G Will (Shields) and G Brian (Waters) in particular has helped me throughout my entire career."

Haley on the decision to bring back Wiegmann…

“It was like any other player, it was no different than any of these guys we acquired in the off-season. We are working on all players that are available at all times and there are guys right now that tapes are going around, we are having discussions about and that is just the process that we have gone through and are going to continue to go through. If there are players that we think can improve us and make us a better team, give us a chance to win games and improve our overall team, we are going to do everything we can.”

Haley on Waters’ decision to fully participate in voluntary OTA workouts…

“We’re on the same page with where we were and this whole off-season has been a really good sign of commitment by everybody involved. This isn’t just about today, it’s really the last few months where these guys are really working and working together, and now we’ve got a chance to take another step towards the goals we’re trying to reach.”

Number Crunch: The Chiefs carried eight offensive linemen on the Opening Day roster in 2009 –*Albert, Alleman,*Goff, *Niswanger, *Ndukwe, O’Callaghan, Smith and *Waters

*indicates opening day starter

Up Next: Wide Receiver

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