A Tale of Two Lines

October 25th, 2009 by Lee Eldridge

ChiefsDuring the ’90s under Marty Schottenheimer, the Chiefs had dominating offensive and defensive lines. So what happened? I think if we look back at these last ten years, we get a pretty darn good glimpse at how the Chiefs have fallen. And why they can’t seem to get back up.

Defensive Line
Derrick Thomas. Neil Smith. Dan Saleuamua. Joe Phillips. As Kansas City fans we loved these guys. The Chiefs have repeatedly tried to replace them. Here are the players that the Chiefs have drafted in the money rounds (NFL draft rounds 1-3) since 2001 to play on the defensive line.

2001: Eric Downing (round 3)
2002: Ryan Sims (round 1), Eddie Freeman (round 2)
2004: Junior Siavii (round 2)
2006: Tamba Hali (round 1)
2007: Turk McBride (round 2), Tank Tyler (round 3)
2008: Glenn Dorsey (round 1)
2009: Tyson Jackson (round 1), Alex Magee (round 3)

That’s ten players selected in the early rounds to play defensive line during the last nine drafts. Several are out of football. And few have made significant contributions on the field in Kansas City or anywhere else for that matter. None were a greater bust than Ryan Sims, who the Chiefs traded up to grab.

Defensive linemen take several years to develop. It’s way too early to judge Dorsey, Jackson and Magee. Hali has been much better with the move to outside linebacker this year than I would have expected. And Dorsey may be starting to turn the corner. He has played well the last couple of weeks. There’s hope for a few of these guys.

Offensive Line
As the Chiefs continued to miss on defensive lineman, it caused a ripple affect through subsequent drafts. With every miss, the Chiefs had to try again. Other positions suffered. And none were ignored as greatly as the offensive line.

During the Vermeil years, the Chiefs were able to build what may have been one of the finest offensive lines in NFL history, featuring veterans Willie Roaf, Will Shields and Brian Waters. But because their line was so good and so dependable, the team felt little urgency to draft and develop young offensive lineman. Here’s the list of offensive lineman taken in rounds 1-3 since 2001.

2008: Branden Albert (round 1)

That’s it. Matter of fact, you have to go back to 1999 when the Chiefs drafted John Tait to find the last offensive lineman chosen by the Chiefs in one of these early rounds. And the Chiefs allowed Tait to leave in free agency after the 2003 season.

The Future
Pioli and Haley have been criticized for not rebuilding the Chiefs offensive line this year. And it’s apparent that the offensive line is their greatest weakness. But it’s important to understand that the Chiefs weren’t just bad. They were really bad and really deficient of talent when Pioli got here. This is not a one year project. Defensive linemen take time to develop. And a good offensive lineman can contribute more quickly. They take less time to develop. I fully expect the Chiefs to address their offensive line problems in the next two drafts. And the hope would be that by 2011 the defensive linemen have developed, and we’ve hit on some good offensive linemen.

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4 Responses to “A Tale of Two Lines”

  1. Bobby Says:

    That’s quite a list of failures on the d-line.

  2. NFL Draft 2010 — Early Thoughts | Lee Eldridge Says:

    […] Needs The Chiefs have a lot of needs, but none more glaring than the offensive line. (See my post here about our lack of picks for the offensive line the last several years.) It all begins up front.The […]

  3. NFL Draft — Chiefs Update | Lee Eldridge Says:

    […] already written a couple times about the Chiefs need to draft offensive lineman (read NFL Draft and A Tale of Two Lines). My opinion remains unchanged. Though after watching the defense fall apart the last few weeks, […]

  4. Evaluating the Chiefs | Lee Eldridge Says:

    […] Offensive Line: The o-line was awful early in the year, and has stabilized some lately. They’ve found some rhythm working with Jamaal Charles in the running game. And they’re doing a better job of protecting Cassel. Having said that, I’m still hopeful that they’ll use a couple of their top picks on offensive linemen. Possibly even offensive tackle Russell Okung with their first pick. They can always move Branden Albert to right tackle. Then draft a guard with one of their picks in the second round. The Chiefs have not addressed offensive tackle over the years (see this post A Tale of Two Lines). […]