Gary Kubiak has said it himself – there’s going to be a lot of competition on the interior offensive line during training camp. There will be five guys competing for three spots, and injuries of course play a role as well. First let’s list the players, then get to the positions:
Antoine Caldwell, 2nd year G/C
2009: Started three games at guard
I only have center included because that’s what he was drafted to be, but he was also drafted because of his versatility. Since he’s been in the league, there have been multiple reports that the team likes Caldwell at guard, and that he’s not in the mix at center anymore. I’m going forward with this entry as if that were the case. Also, in my skeptical brain, “they like him at guard” actually means “they don’t like him at center.”
Chris Myers, 6th year C
2009: Started all 16 games at center
Myself and others have already posted the video of Chris “Closed Casket” Myers getting clubbed to death on the Reliant field several times, so I’ll spare you all that reminder (this time). Let’s just say he had problems with the big NTs, but doesn’t everyone? He’s not the most effective center in the league by any stretch, but he knows the offense inside and out, and makes all the line calls. He’s played his entire career in the zone blocking scheme, and he hasn’t missed a game since 2005.
Mike Brisiel, 5th year G
2009: Started first five games before going on IR with a foot injury
Brisiel was really coming into his own as a guard before the horrible injury he suffered against the Cardinals. He had been one of the whipping boys on the O-Line in 2008, but was looking better in ’09 before he went down. There are doubts that he will be healed enough to retake his position in 2010, and if he doesn’t get back to 100% after Lisfranc surgery (not an easy task) he will be out of a starting job.
Kasey Studdard, 4th year G
2009: Started 14 games after replacing the injured Chester Pitts
Studdard is one of those guys that I WANT to like so badly. He’s got that mean streak that I love, but to this point it hasn’t translated into on-field success. The coaches seem to love the guy and his attitude, but at some point you have to show talent on the field. For his sake, hopefully it will happen before BFD pays someone to have him Kerrigan’d.
Wade Smith, 9th year G/C
2009: Played in all 16 games (started nine) at guard/center for the Chiefs
Smith has jumped around in his career (Dolphins, Jets, Chiefs, Texans) but has been a solid player the last couple of years for Kansas City. He signed with the Texans for starter money, and has said he wouldn’t have signed on with a team he thought he wasn’t going to start for. He’s another guy who can play multiple O-Line positions… but he actually can play tackle in a pinch as well.
I really think Myers has a stranglehold on the center position. As discussed in a previous post, Smith might actually be a better player than Myers at executing the position – but will Smith be able to cover the mental side of being the center (making line calls, etc) as well as Myers? Myers has been in the system his entire career, and Smith played in a much different run system in Kansas City.
To be fair, Myers was hampered by a high ankle sprain last season. He suffered it in training camp if I remember correctly, and just wasn’t able to take the time off to have it fully heal – so it never did. Does that mean he won’t get suplexed off the top rope by Haloti Ngata, or clubbed like a baby seal at the hands of Kris Jenkins? No, it doesn’t. But it might help him keep his starting job in the face of stiff competition.
LEFT & RIGHT GUARD
Wade Smith, Kasey Studdard, Mike Brisiel, and Antoine Caldwell are going to duke it out for these two positions. If Smith can beat out Myers for the center spot (very doubtful if you ask me), then that cuts the field to three. I think the coaches love Caldwell at RG, and honestly – he looked pretty good at times last year for a rookie. I expect he will make a significant jump in 2010. In the end, I think it’s a three-man fight for the LG spot.
You’re asking a lot from Brisiel to come back from that awful injury at 100%, so really it may only be between Studdard and Smith. You’ve got the young, aggressive, inconsistent player against the solid veteran. Tough choice, but to me, the tiebreaker in this case is the economic side. You pay starter money, you get a starter. Actually – it’s not a tie at all. Unless Studdard makes a BIG jump, I don’t think he’s quite as good as Smith, even coming from a different system.
What I expect
I think Caldwell and Myers are virtual locks to retain their positions. The LG spot is more complicated, as discussed above. Studdard and Brisiel would be pretty solid depth at the guard spot, and I think that’s where they will end up.
My opinion is that we’ll be looking at RG Antoine Caldwell, C Chris Myers, and LG Wade Smith. Brisiel and Studdard hit the bench, along with Chris White. Shelley Smith ends up on the practice squad.