In Kansas City, the Chiefs learned the hard way last season just how crucial a strong line is. Now it's a new year. And there are some new men on the front lines fighting for victory and playing time.
The 2011 Kansas City Chiefs went into the off-season with plenty of kinks in the chain. And just about everyone noticed the offensive line just wasn't linking together.
"That's something we want to pride ourselves on is running the ball. And it takes everybody to do that, not just the running backs," says Brian Daboll, Chiefs Offensive Coordinator.
That's a desire in 2012, because last year, the Chiefs run game averaged 3.9 yards per carry and scored just five rushing touchdowns all year.
So, in March when the search warrant went out for a free agent, right tackle Eric Winston was a wanted man.
"When you're at one place for a long time you get use to doing certain things and you start believing in those things. So shifting over here we're doing a lot of the same things but there are some quirks," Winston says.
After seven seasons with the Houston Texans he now has to get use to a new system, which is what training camp is for.
Winston, "It takes some time but you know, this camp thing is one of them. Going somewhere and not sleeping in my own bed at night, that's an adjustment for me. But we'll figure it out and we'll just keep moving down the road."
Coming in as possibly the second biggest free agent signing in the AFC West, besides Peyton Manning, Winston's transition seems easy compared to what rookie teammate Jeff Allen has to go through.
"I feel good," Allen says. "You know just trying to come out and get better. Especially use younger guys, just coming out and compete and contribute."
The rookie perspective is understandable. Allen comes into camp as the new guy. The unproven guy. And that's just months after he was the guy for 47 straight starts as an Illini.
"Just coming in ready to work. Anyway I can help the team. Coming in with that mind set and learning from some great guys. We have a lot of good veterans on this team," believes Allen.
Early in camp it's easy to tell - Allen is talented.
"He moves his feel well. He's got nice length. He plays well, it doesn't look like it's too big for him," notes Winston.
But he's coming in with the mind set of a student. Learning just about everything from his veteran teammates, especially Eric Winston.
"If he's getting in the cold tub, I'm right behind him cause there's a reason he's been in the league for this long and there's a reason he plays at a high level," says Allen.
"You've got rookies that need help and I don't care who you are or how talented you are you aren't going to do it by yourself and so they will need help and they'll need it from a player's perspective," adds Winston.
On paper the line is strong. But it's still unproven. So if they don't prove themselves and give Matt Cassel the time he needs, maybe new guys like Allen will get the time they desire.
"Just thinking about coming out and getting better for myself and what ever happens, happens."
A very interesting 2012 season is about to get underway.
(In St. Joseph, Justin Dougherty, KC Blitz)
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