Aug 23, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Vikings defensive tackle Corey Wootton (99) sacks Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs enter the final preseason week with question marks on the offensive line.
Starting right tackle Donald Stephenson’s four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances has the team tinkering with personnel groups.
“We’re in an evaluation process,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said Monday. “We’ve moved some guys around different positions and we’ve tried some different things. Right now moving forward we’ve got to embrace it and we got to take the guys that we have and build with that.”
Starting left guard Jeff Allen moved to right tackle for the third preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Chiefs rotated series between Jeff Linkenbach and Ricky Henry at left guard in Allen’s place with the first-team offense.
Allen’s transition should come easy considering his college background.
“It’s a natural position for him,” Pederson said. “If you do the history on him, he was a tackle in college. He looks good over there. We’ll continue to work him there and see how he does.”
For his part, Allen said Saturday night he’s prepared to do whatever the Chiefs deem necessary.
“I’m confident in my ability to play tackle,” Allen said. “I’m going to do everything in my ability to prepare. If I’m needed at right tackle during the season, that’s what I’ll do.”
Meanwhile, the jury remains out with Linkenbach and Henry at the left guard position.
“It’s even,” Pederson said. “It’s still going to be a battle. It’s going to come down to the wire. We have one preseason game left to evaluate all the guys one more time and make the best decision possible going forward.”
The Chiefs starting offensive line has allowed six sacks through three games on quarterback Alex Smith.
As a group, the Chiefs allowed 14 sacks. To put it in perspective, the Chiefs allow sacks on 15 percent of passing attempts, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times.
Starters likely won’t play much – if at all – when the Chiefs take the field Thursday night for the preseason finale, giving the Chiefs less than two weeks before the regular season opener on Sept. 7.
Of course, the Chiefs could still address the offensive line by signing a free agent or claiming a player off waivers with teams around the league cutting rosters in the coming days.
But outside of those scenarios, Pederson indicated the team will move forward.
“We have all the confidence in the world in Jeff or whoever that guy is going to be at right tackle or whoever is going to be at guard and just go,” Pederson said. “We did that last year.”
FILLLING MAYS’ ROLE
Left inside linebacker Joe Mays is out for an unknown period after undergoing ligament surgery to repair his wrist.
The Chiefs have in-house players to consider as Mays’ immediate fill.
“We’ve got three guys in there that are going to work,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said Monday. “(Josh) Mauga, who has been out, would’ve been the next in line. Nico (Johnson) has had a really good camp and I think is an improved player, and then we played Frank (Zombo) in there a little bit, which we started way before the (Mays’) injury.”
Johnson, last year’s fourth-round pick, started Saturday’s game against the Vikings and split repetitions with Zombo, who showed versatility by moving inside from his accustomed outside position.
The wildcard is Mauga, who played in the first preseason contest before suffering a groin injury on Aug. 11. The fifth-year pro didn’t play in the last two preseason games, but recently returned to practice.
The Chiefs signed Mauga a day before training camp in a move that reunited the former New York Jet with Sutton, who coached linebackers with the Jets.
“He’s another guy that has played multiple roles for us at both inside positions,” Sutton said, “played both sub positions. In New York, he actually has played games as an outside linebacker, so again he’s a very versatile guy.”
Mauga’s familiarity with Sutton’s scheme could offer an edge and he remains second on the Chiefs’ current depth chart.
But the 27-year old linebacker, who spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Jets on injured reserve, must stay on the field.
“We got to see how much Mauga can do this week,” Sutton said. “Hopefully he’ll be back and get some work, and so that will be the three guys that will be in that mix.”
The Chiefs have Derrick Johnson, James-Michael Johnson and Alonzo Highsmith at right inside linebacker.
SUCCOP VS. SANTOS
The kicker battle between veteran Ryan Succop and rookie Cairo Santos comes to a head Thursday night as the Chiefs near a decision.
“We’re going to continue the competition this week,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Monday. “It’s going to carry over into the Green Bay week.”
Toub said a final determination hasn’t been made when it came to splitting the duty Thursday night.
“We just know it will be an ongoing competition,” Toub said. “Both guys will kick in this game.”
Succop and Santos are both 3-of-3 on preseason field goal attempts. Succop’s longest field goal came from 54 yards, while Santos’ longest is 44 yards.
DRESSLER DRAWING INTEREST
The Chiefs on Monday released former Canadian Football League star wide receiver Weston Dressler.
But the two-time CFL All-Star and CFL Most Outstanding Rookie in 2008 may not be out of work for long.
“A majority of the CFL teams” have already reached out and expressed interest in Dressler, his agent Justin Seurer told ChiefsSpin.com.
Seurer said Dressler, who last played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders before signing a free-agent deal with the Chiefs in February, has no regrets and is leaving options open.