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The Unsung, Overlooked and Dismissed

Posted Oct 27, 2010

Kansas City's offensive line has been busy posting the league's best numbers while few are paying attention

Kansas City’s offensive linemen spent Tuesday afternoon milking cows and leading pig races. True story.

Their agricultural adventure was part of the American Royal’s School Tour Program. The big men, along with the tight ends, chose to spend their only day away from work by giving back to the community.

Selflessness has become common practice for Kansas City’s offensive line this season, particularly when it comes to the execution of the Chiefs offense.

A year ago, Kansas City’s offensive line may have taken more bullets than any position group as the Chiefs suffered through a 4-12 season. When Matt Cassel was sacked 30 times over the first eight games, football pundits called the play of the offensive line “dreadful.” When Kansas City didn’t post a rushing touchdown until mid-November, their blocking performance was “pathetic.”

Even as the Chiefs offense began to make strides over the second-half of 2009, the offensive line didn’t receive any credit. Kansas City’s late-season success was supposedly just a product of RB Jamaal Charles’ elite speed, not because the o-line was playing any better. Apparently, the quickness of Charles helped these unskilled linemen post better numbers because they didn’t have to hold their blocks as long.

The short-sighted rationalizations trickled into the passing game as well. When the Kansas City’s sack totals were cut in half over the final eight games of 2009, the same reason was credited for the improvement…the emergence of Jamaal Charles.

That’s fine. Nobody deserved a pat on the back last season.

But this offseason, a pair of new faces were added to the mix and the rest of the cast members have continued to grow from 2009’s late-season success. Six games into 2010, this group is the glue holding together Kansas City’s 4-2 start. The Chiefs offensive line is playing better than any other group in football. There’s no comparison. The numbers aren’t debatable.

Still, the efforts of this group go unsung.

When it’s brought up that the Chiefs offensive line has yielded a league-low 5.0 sacks in 2010, the critics will counter that those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. The Chiefs, after all, have only thrown the football 153 times. Only the Steelers have thrown fewer passes. Those sack totals should be low.

Point taken.

But what about the rest of the offensive snaps? Are they just forgotten? If you’re not passing, you’re running. Correct?

Well, not only has the Chiefs o-line yielded the fewest sacks in the NFL, but they’re producing the best rushing attack in the league as well…and it’s not even close.

The Chiefs are averaging 176.5 rushing yards per game; that’s nearly 17.3 yards more than the second-ranked New York Jets. Whether the running style commands a dose of speed or power, Kansas City’s ball carriers are succeeding.

Both Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones are on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards this season. Dexter McCluster is averaging 5.5 yards per carry; the Chiefs have dialed up nearly 500 rushing yards over the past two games and three different backs found the end zone against Jacksonville. If JC and TJ can both reach 1,000 yards, that would be a franchise first.

“Whenever you can run for 200 yards as a team two weeks in a row says a lot about your team, says a lot about your running backs group, the offensive line, and the mentality of the whole,” Jones said.

Still, nobody outside of Chiefs Nation seems to give the play of Kansas City’s offensive line any respect. What more does a first place team with those types of numbers have to do? Easy…continue the trend into December.

Heading into this season, it wasn’t hard to find someone skeptical of the offensive line that the Chiefs were set to field.  Ryan Lilja was just a castoff from the Colts with injury issues, Casey Wiegmann didn’t have anything left in the tank, Brian Waters neared the same fate as Wiegmann and was better suited in moving to center, Branden Albert lost too much weight to be effective and the right tackle situation was a disaster.

In a nutshell, some combination of the above appeared in print or was tossed around the airwaves.

As October comes to a close, it’s clear that most people don’t like to admit when they’re wrong. In the football world, being wrong hurts that “expert” image. For that reason, more time is spent searching for reasons why Kansas City can’t possibly sustain this rate of success, rather than dissecting exactly how they’ve been able to achieve it.

“(We) have a good offensive line, all the credit goes to them,” Jones said. “They come off the ball every play. (Offensive line coach) Bill Muir does a great job with them during the week and our whole offensive coaching staff.”

The offensive line is widely respected in the Kansas City locker room and they’ve begun to win over the fan base as well. Past that, they don’t need anything else.

None of it really matters anyway. These guys have performed the most anonymous job in sports for the majority of their lives. Being overlooked and underappreciated is nothing new.

Soon, the rest of the country will catch up and we may begin to hear that the Chiefs have the most underrated offensive line in the NFL. But the numbers say that’s not the case. The numbers currently make this group the best in all of football.

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