Chiefs scrambling to protect Smith
St. Joseph, Mo. • The presumptive favorite to win the starting right guard spot with the Kansas City Chiefs worked out with the third team on Monday. The guy who is challenging him for the spot slid over to center during another portion of the workout.
Rishaw Johnson and Zach Fulton are just the start of the offensive line shuffle.
After watching three linemen who started last season depart in free agency — all within hours of each other — the Chiefs are trying to cobble together some sort of protection for quarterback Alex Smith that can also manage to open up running lanes for Jamaal Charles during training camp.
And with lingering questions about the health of left tackle Eric Fisher and an ankle injury to starting right tackle Donald Stephenson, that job hasn’t gotten a whole lot easier.
"People are saying that we are really young and we’ve got something to prove," said Fulton, a sixth-round pick who could end up starting the Chiefs’ season opener Sept. 7 against Tennessee. "In a sense that’s good. It shows that we can be relied on because that was one of the concerns."
Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert joined guards Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah in an offseason exodus.
There are only a few of spots on the offensive line that appear nailed down as the Chiefs prepared to take their first day off from training camp on Tuesday.
Rodney Hudson is entrenched at center, though several guys are getting a look at backing him up. Jeff Allen is back to reprise his role at left guard, while Fisher — the No. 1 overall pick two years ago — will switch to the blind side after starting at right tackle last season.
Stephenson is getting the first crack at replacing Fisher on the right side, but his ankle injury has created a hole there for the time being. And a heated race between Johnson and Fulton at right guard could carry into the final preseason game Aug. 23 at Green Bay.
It surely won’t be decided by the preseason opener against Cincinnati on Aug. 7.
"It’s constantly a work in progress. It never ends," Smith, the former University of Utah quarterback, said of the competition. "You could be in December or January. With those five guys, it’s always going."