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 Chiefs hope tackles will bolster the flanks

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PostSubject: Chiefs hope tackles will bolster the flanks   Tue Aug 09, 2011 9:19 am

Chiefs’ hope tackles will bolster the flanks
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star

ST. JOSEPH | Barry Richardson spent the offseason wondering when the Chiefs would bring in a right tackle to take his starting job.

That player never arrived, not through the draft or free-agency. Richardson took it as a vote of confidence that the Chiefs so far have stood in place at tackle, with Branden Albert and Richardson as the starters and Ryan O’Callaghan as the backup.

“I did my best to show them I deserve to be the starting right tackle,” said Richardson, a starter for the first time last season. “I’m going to keep showing them I deserve that spot. I don’t want there to be any question in their mind about whether they made a good choice.”

The only new starter on the offensive line will be right guard Jon Asamoah, who takes the place of departed Pro Bowler Brian Waters.

“I feel good about how that group has worked thus far,” coach Todd Haley said. “It’s really good to have a guy like Casey Wiegmann back because we do have some young guys we’re counting on to step up. Between him and Branden Albert, there’s some good leadership there that’s really helping those young guys come along.

“Across the board, I’m encouraged by what I see so far for as little as we’ve been in pads.”

The middle of their line isn’t the concern for the Chiefs. Last year they added Wiegmann at center and Ryan Lilja at guard and both played about as well as the Chiefs could expect. Waters made the Pro Bowl last season, but the Chiefs released him because they think so much of Asamoah.

They also drafted Florida State’s Rodney Hudson in the second round and believe he is the eventual successor to the 38-year-old Wiegmann.

At tackle, the Chiefs are depending mainly on improvement from Albert and Richardson. Albert, facing the opponent’s top pass rusher each week as the left tackle, allowed eight sacks in 15 games last season.

“Every day I’m working at it,” Albert said. “It’s been a process. It hasn’t been perfect. I have my good days, and I have my bad days. I’m continuing to work, trying to get better.”

Richardson allowed five sacks while starting all 16 games. His season was inconsistent, something not unexpected from a first-year starter.

Albert, now in his fourth season as the starter at left tackle, is still trying to establish himself as one of the game’s top tackles. The Chiefs have had chances in the draft the last couple of seasons to draft a left tackle but have been patient with Albert, 26.

“You would think it’s time for him to come into his own,” former Chiefs offensive lineman Rich Baldinger said after watching a recent training-camp practice. “I thought last year he made some improvement. Usually, the fourth year is the takeoff year. If you haven’t done it by then, you’ve got to wonder about the player.”

Baldinger said it takes time for offensive tackles to develop.

“All you have to do is look at (Chiefs Hall of Famer) John Alt,” he said. “There was one point in his third year where people started calling him a bust. It’s just something you have to go through. For Branden, it’s the same thing. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable and I think he’s getting there.

“You can talk about bringing another guy in, but Branden improved sufficiently last year.”

Albert’s progress could be set back because the Chiefs had no offseason practices, casualties of the lockout. Another factor is the slow pace of training camp. The Chiefs worked little in pads until Monday, when they expanded their contact period.

“I actually think Branden Albert has made some progress as a run blocker,” offensive-line coach Bill Muir said. “He missed that offseason as a pass protector.

“It’s not there yet. His technique is a little off, but I have no doubt it will come.”

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