Chiefs' O-line still a work in progress


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Three months after losing three of last season's regular offensive linemen to free agency, the Kansas City Chiefs are still trying to sort through their options to replace them.

Offensive line combinations have often changed day to day and sometimes within practice periods. The Chiefs have worked seven linemen with their starting group at offseason practice, and that's not including starting left tackle Eric Fisher, who hasn't been able to participate in full team drills because of recent shoulder surgery.

"You know you need more than five," said coach Andy Reid. "You need to make sure you've got a good 10 of them ready to go ... and see what you've got there. So we've been challenging them as much as you can challenge them here, which isn't much.

"We've always tried to make sure if somebody goes down we've got that next guy up that can go."

The Chiefs look set at both tackle spots, as well as left guard and center. Fisher will start at left tackle, though it's unlikely he won't participate fully this week as the Chiefs wrap up their offseason work with a three-day minicamp that begins Tuesday. The Chiefs are hopeful he will be cleared for work when training camp begins next month.

Donald Stephenson will start at right tackle, Jeff Allen at left guard and Rodney Hudson at center. Including Fisher, all started at least seven games last season.

The scramble is at right guard, where the Chiefs have looked at various times in the starting lineup at developmental prospect Rishaw Johnson, free-agent addition Jeff Linkenbach and rookie Zach Fulton, a sixth-round draft pick. The Chiefs are also sorting through candidates for the backup positions.

That's difficult to do during offseason practice, when the Chiefs work without pads. But the competition should get interesting beginning next month at training camp.

"That's one group that's improving," Reid said. "We had some guys that were in there and then moved on and the guys have stepped up with the exception of Fisher, who can't do anything. The other guys have grasped it pretty well."