Maneri shows flexibility as reserve tackle

Posted Nov 29, 2011

Steve Maneri saw action as a third tackle against Pittsburgh and became the Chiefs first offensive lineman to catch a pass since 1998. He'll see more time going forward with Jared Gaither's release.

There was a general sense of excitement when Jared Gaither inked a free agent deal with the Chiefs shortly before the team’s preseason opener against Tampa Bay. The Chiefs were in need for experienced competition and depth at the tackle position and Gaither had a resume´ that included 28 regular season starts at left tackle for an AFC power.

Tuesday, Gaither was released by the team and quietly exited Kansas City without making much of an on-field impact.

The majority of Gaither’s contribution during his 10-game run with the Chiefs came as a third offensive tackle. In most games Gaither acted as the only active backup to both tackle positions and saw the most of his snaps when the Chiefs went into heavy, tackle-over offensive sets.

Rookie David Mims was promoted to from the practice squad to fill the roster spot vacated by Gaither’s release. Mims pairs with Steve Maneri as the team’s reserve tackles, while second-round draft pick Rodney Hudson is the primary backup to all three interior positions.

The move comes after both Maneri and Hudson saw increased roles in Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh.

Hudson made his first career start at left guard in place of injured starter Ryan Lilja (head) and Maneri jumped Gaither on the depth chart as a pass-eligible tackle in unbalanced formations.

“I thought overall he was definitely a bright spot,” Coach Todd Haley said of Hudson. “I thought he played as good as anybody up front and that’s going against a pretty difficult front seven.”

Though Maneri played in three-tackle sets and tallied his first career pass reception in the process, Gaither was still the first tackle off the bench when Branden Albert went down with a fourth quarter injury.

Gaither served as a one-play substitute for Albert and committed a false start penalty before Albert re-entered the game. The penalty put the Chiefs in a 1st-and-15 situation at the Pittsburgh 37-yard line before Tyler Palko threw a game-ending interception on the next snap.

“We’ve got to be disciplined in that situation,” Haley said after the game, referring to Gaither’s false start penalty. “It hurt us and any time you have a minus play and you’re going backwards in a situation like that and you have them on their heels and you’re moving the football, any kind of minus play hurts you.

“That’s a difficult situation to be moving into. It’s just unfortunate. Branden is a tough kid that came right back, but it was a disruption that set us back a bit.”

Whether or not Gaither’s error contributed to his release, the roster move shows confidence in Maneri’s ability to contribute.

Maneri, who was claimed off waivers from New England on September 5th, had been inactive for the majority of the season prior to Sunday’s game. He gives the Chiefs positional flexibility as an edge blocker, having practiced as both a tight end and an offensive tackle this season. The 290-pounder was a former collegiate tight end at Temple.

A new-age Joe Valerio of sorts, Maneri’s one-yard reception against Pittsburgh made him the first Chiefs offensive lineman to catch as pass since Will Shields caught a batted ball for a four-yard gain during the infamous “rain game” against Seattle in 1998.

Troy Polamalu was injured while attempting to tackle Maneri and did not return to action because of concussion-like symptoms.

Gaither never truly challenged for a starting role that many believed he'd eventually earn when the Chiefs signed him to a low-risk contract in August. With the final month of the season approaching, the Chiefs chose to move in a different direction.

Though he missed all of last season with a back injury and reportedly failed a physical this summer on a free agent visit to Oakland, Gaither had been adamant that he was 100% healthy since his arrival in Kansas City.

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