Secret Superstar: Jon Asamoah
When looking purely at statistics, it’s no surprise that the Chiefs finished the season 2-14 in 2012. They were outscored by a league-leading 13.4 points per game, finished second to last in quarterback rating (63.8), and last in quarterback rating against (99.9). Those last two are an absolutely deadly combination in the NFL and no matter how well you can run or stop the run you will ultimately be doomed with those numbers.
The problem is that their record doesn’t quite reflect the sum of their parts. Kansas City sent six players to Hawaii and had three players selected to PFF’s AFC Pro Bowl squad. Looking over their roster there is talent almost everywhere, even beyond those Pro Bowlers. Tamba Hali, Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, Brandon Flowers, and Branden Albert are all fairly big-name players that have had great seasons in the past. The biggest problem was that the Chiefs were a team built to run the ball, not pass.
One of their strongest positional units is the offensive line, a group that graded 20th in pass blocking and eighth in run blocking in 2012. Over the course of the season, Kansas City had to overcome injuries at left tackle and left guard, but the right side of the Chiefs’ line was steadily one of the best in the league. There wasn’t a gap on the right side of the line that the Chiefs running backs didn’t run for at least 4 yards per carry through and both players graded in the Top 10 at their position. One was former Chief Eric Winston and the other is the Chiefs’ Secret Superstar Jon Asamoah.
Out of high school Asamoah was a fairly undersized two-star recruit. He chose to go to the University of Illinois and after his senior year he was named a second team all-Big Ten selection. The Chiefs obviously liked the way his athleticism would transfer to the NFL and former GM Scott Pioli made him the second guard taken in the 2010 draft (Round 3, 68th overall). That season, Asamoah was able to sit and learn behind six-time Pro Bowler Brian Waters.
Waters was released prior to the 2011 season and Asamoah was starting Week 1. From the beginning he had his struggles in run blocking. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound guard isn’t built like a traditional road grading guard. He doesn’t have the bulk of a Carl Nicks or Mike Iupati to consistently overpower defensive lineman in the running game. What Asamoah did excel at that season though was his pass blocking. In 2011 he had the seventh-best pass blocking efficiency among all guards and was amazing down the stretch, allowing only two pressures in his last eight games.
In 2012 the Chiefs’ right guard regressed slightly in his pass blocking success. His PBE dropped from 98.3 to 96.4 although he still only allowed three sacks on the season. The encouraging news for Chiefs fans though was that he stepped up his run blocking immensely. He harnessed his athleticism to his advantage in the Chiefs zone blocking scheme and graded out 14.9 points higher. Running through the holes on Asamoah’s left and right, Chiefs running backs averaged 4.8 yards per carry. That number was a pitiful 3.1 yards per carry in 2011. He isn’t quite on a Pro Bowl level yet, but he was good enough to be PFF’s 10th-highest graded guard in all of football last season.
Putting It All Together
If you were to take Asomoah’s 2011 pass-blocking grade and combine it with his 2012 run-blocking grade, he would have been the fifth-highest graded guard last season. The fact that he’s shown prowess in both the pass and run blocking disciplines is very promising. That sort of potential makes the Chiefs’ prospects on the offensive line for 2013 downright scary. A hypothetical starting lineup at this point could look like this: LT Branden Albert, LG Geoff Schwartz, C Rodney Hudson, RG Jon Asamoah, and RT Eric Fisher.
Four of the five have shown the ability to be above-average starters in the NFL (and Fisher, of course, enters with the pedigree of a top overall pick), but there are more than a few question marks there as well — Fisher’s transition into the league and position switch and the fact that Schwartz and Hudson played less than 200 snaps last season. With all that uncertainty, a legitimate anchor in the middle of their offensive line is invaluable for Kansas City. Asamoah provides that and that is why he is our choice for the Chiefs’ Secret Superstar.
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