One of the few relative strengths for the Chiefs this season has been the offensive line, but for a second time this season injuries have forced a few changes up front.
In Week 11, the team had to adjust on the fly. A broken thumb by ORG Jon Asamoah and a knee injury for C Ryan Lilja threw a wrench into the team’s lineup. That forced ORT Eric Winston inside to right guard and brought Donald Stephenson (right tackle) and Russ Hochstein (center) off the bench. Hochstein was brought in midseason after sitting most of the 2011 season.
Then during the game, OLT Branden Albert — their best offensive lineman — went down, which forced Stephenson to move to left tackle, Winston back to right tackle and Bryan Mattison (who was signed the same time Hochstein was) in a flurry of activity.
Who will be available for Sunday’s game against the Broncos is unclear. Albert (back) might not be able to go. Lilja, who also has played relatively well, did not practice this week. Asamoah has been fitted with a brace and cast and has had to get used to the bulk and feel of it.
If there’s a benefit of the moves, it’s that the Chiefs can evaluate Stephenson next to fellow rookie, OG Jeff Allen, to see if he’s the future at left tackle. Albert is a free agent who could price himself out of the Chiefs’ plans, although they could place the franchise tag on him this offseason.