Ready To Fill Big Shoes … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

Both were third-round selections by the Chiefs in the NFL Draft. Both came to the team with scouting reports that described them as athletic blockers with very good strength and remarkably quick feet. Both young men were called “competitors” by coaches and scouts that were evaluating them. Each one became a starter at right guard early in their NFL careers.

Nineteen years ago the Chiefs selected Will Shields out of the University of Nebraska with the 74th choice in the third round. He moved into the right guard spot as an injury replacement during the first game of his rookie season in 1993, and did not leave until he retired after the 2006 season.

Last year, the Chiefs selected Jon Asamoah out of the University of Illinois with the 68th choice in the third round. He moved into the right guard spot at the start of this season, his second in the league.

After the first two games of this 2011 season, that Asamoah would be associated with Shields in any manner would have been unthinkable, if not laughable. In the big early losses to Buffalo and Detroit, Asamoah struggled blocking for the run and with pass protection. Just as Shields name was announced as part of the list of candidates for 2012 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Asamoah appeared overmatched in the starting lineup.

Then, things began to change.

It started three weeks ago in San Diego, when Asamoah raised the level of his play. He improved a week later against Minnesota and then playing the Colts last Sunday, he turned in his best performance to date. The arrow is very definitely pointed up for the young man who grew up in the Chicago suburbs.

No, he’s not anywhere near the level of Shields at this point. It may be unfair to even bring talk of comparisons with the former No. 68 into the discussion.

But what’s evident is this – Asamoah has many of the same traits, both physically and mentally, that Shields showed and what made him what should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

“He was such a good player,” Asamoah said when asked about Shields. “I don’t know a lot about him, but I watched him play on TV and I’ve seen some tape. It would be incredible to have a career like Will Shields. That’s what I’m hoping to do.”

The victory over Indianapolis was a step in the right direction for Asamoah. The Chiefs offense ran for 194 yards against the Colts and a lot of that came between the tackles, where the trio of LG Ryan Lilja, C Casey Wiegmann and Asamoah had their best game together and individually.

“He’s kind of an unsung hero in this last game – really the last two games, in my opinion – this last game especially just because of the yardage we were able to accumulate running and he’s been right at the heart of that,” head coach Todd Haley said of Asamoah. “He’s another young, second-year, developing player that missed an off-season this year (because of the owners’ lockout), although he’s a very hard worker on his own.

“Some of those guys had catching up to do and I think you’re really seeing him start to come on and pick up where he was when last year ended.”

There is no doubt in Asamoah’s mind that each game brings more comfort, more confidence in what he’s doing and more collaboration with Wiegmann to his left and tackle Barry Richardson to his right.

“Yeah, every game it becomes a little easier,” Asamoah said. “I can tell now just the way Casey calls an adjustment what he wants me to do. It seems like every week we do a better job of meshing together. Same with Barry; the communication level has just increased a lot.”

Shields was listed during his career at 6-3, 305 pounds; Asamoah is 6-4, 305 pounds. Both were honored in college for their play on the field and their work in the classroom, using that brain power to advance their play. Comparisons can even go down to the fact they both have unusual middle names – it’s Will Herthie Shields and Jonathan Yao-Lante Asamoah.

What they also share is one trait that could allow Asamoah to actually reach the same level of Shields – he’s quick on his feet, remarkably so for a young man weighing over 300 pounds. It allows him to move on the run, whether it’s a sweep, which the Chiefs don’t do a lot of, or on traps and misdirection plays, which are frequent parts of their attack. That foot quickness is imperative in pass blocking, allowing him to mirror the movements of a pass rusher. It keeps him balanced and in front of the defender trying to get to the quarterback.

“First and foremost, just his mentality is what you really like,” Haley said. “You don’t hear boo out of him. You’ve got to lean in real close to hear him talk but he’s serious, he’s tough, he’s highly competitive at his job. Within the game, you’ll see some emotion out of him on big plays or big runs or big first downs.

“He’s getting more and more comfortable working in and around some of the veteran guys we have and they’re becoming a nicely, tightly-woven unit right now. That takes time, but I’m excited to see that it’s happening.”

7 Responses to “Ready To Fill Big Shoes … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 12, 2011  - ED J says:

    People forget lockout hurt two major parts of the team secondary and o-line. That’s on all 32 NFL teams. O-line has to communicate blitz pickups and audibles. Secondary must communicate coverages and audibles with the defense. As for Asomoah though you could tell his rookie yr this kid was special. That game where he blocked the guy into the stands was awesome. I think he’s going to be very good o-line possibly great. We need more guys like this to the o-line. Especially if we want to recapture the dominant o-line we had in early 2000s

  • October 12, 2011  - Milkman says:

    I’m ready to see what another youngster brings to the table- Rodney Hudson. If he turns out to be comparible to Casey, maybe our o-line problems will be well on their way out.

  • October 12, 2011  - KC_Guy says:

    Jon Asamoah is probably the guy I am most excited about out of the 2010 draft class. I consider him a worthy heir of Will Shields. Not sure what had happened to Shields as a Rookie had he not been forced into the lineup by injury – may be he had ridden pine for a year as well.
    When the Chiefs released Brian Waters there was a reasoning behind it: Jon had to get a chance to play.
    We’ll probably have to wait for another season to see Hudson taking over from either Wiegmann (probable) or Lilja (possible) – but there’s another good OL waiting in the wings and learning the job from some pretty good elders.

  • October 12, 2011  - el cid says:

    Supposedly Hudson is more of a guard than center. Could replace Lilja next year. Think they will try again for a center first thru the draft then somebodies backup C with size.

  • October 12, 2011  - ED J says:

    I doubt it Hudson played center at Fl state which happens to be my favorite college team. I think he is more than capable of playing center in pros. They switched him to guard but he is true center. I see us drafting a guard and tackle next season. Hudson will replace Wiegman. Lija cld play another couple more yrs

  • October 12, 2011  - rufus says:

    Asamoah made me chuckle a bit during those first games. But I’m with you Bob – the guy has quick feet for his size and even though he was obviously blowing assignments left and right when the season started, he didn’t let the game overwhelm. He’s gonna be a plow. Him and Barry Richardson are going to lay 3 lanes of daylight once they get it all figured out. Then I will chuckle again, but for different reasons.

  • October 13, 2011  - el cid says:

    Thanks,ED but the “they” who switched Hudson to guard was the Chiefs, wasn’t it? Suspect they may have a different need and think he is the current answer. We need a replacement for Weigman. Studebaker could not beat out Vrabel last year and now we have two vieing for the position. If Hudson cannot take over for Weigman, then he may not be the next center for the Chiefs.

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