Eric Winston fitting in with Chiefs offense

Posted Aug 6, 2012

Free agent acquisition Eric Winston is set to start at right tackle for the Chiefs this season

St. Joseph, Mo. - He's no stranger to the part of the game played with agents and not a football. He's seen enough good players come and go during his 31 years in the league to understand that you can't keep them all. By now, he's taught himself to focus on the guys he's coaching now and not the ones that he could coach down the line.

But all his experience with the turbulent system of free agency went out the window when Romeo Crennel saw Eric Winston listed on the league's waiver wire last March. And for the first time in a long time, the veteran head coach let himself think about what adding an outside player like Winston would mean for his team.

"We said, ‘Hey, this guy is a starter and somebody we should be interested in," Crennel remembered during Saturday's press conference. "You make your telephone calls and those kinds of things and see if you can get the guy in and visit and talk to him to find out what kind of person he is, if he'll be interested in those kinds of things. That's the process we went through."

That process worked. Other teams predictably came knocking for Winston, who blocked for the league's best rushing attack in Houston last season. The veteran right tackle eventually chose the Chiefs.

Crennel is happily reminded of that fact each time Winston takes the practice field at Missouri Western State University. The veteran right tackle is at his first of what will be many more Chiefs training camps, and that means his head coach doesn't have to deal in "what-ifs" anymore. Crennel gets to see the end product of his recruiting, up close and personal and twice a day.

He has to like what he's seen so far. Winston has looked downright dominant as a bookend to left Branden Albert on a revamped Chiefs offensive line.

It's no coincidence that the Chiefs' running backs have looked like the strongest unit in camp. Saturday's 11-on-11 drills began with Winston battling defensive end Tyson Jackson. On a handoff that started left, Jamaal Charles cut back to Winston's side and through the gaping hole his new right tackle opened for a big gain.

A few plays later, Winston drove linebacker Justin Houston down the line of scrimmage on a stretch handoff to Charles, who picked his spot and cut up field for another positive gain.

Run blocking, not jogging, is Winston's bread-and-butter. Toss plays and off-tackle handoffs go mostly to his side in drills, and that frequency could increase when the pads are on for the first preseason game on Friday.

Crennel has no problem playing to the strengths of his new star tackle. The offense will feature a zone-blocking scheme on many of its rushing plays. And that means the Chiefs will use the same one-cut philosophy that Arian Foster used to average the second-most rushing yards per game (94.2) in 2011.

It also means the transition from Houston to Kansas City will be that much easier for Winston, who started 87 straight games for the Texans before signing with the Chiefs.

“I think when you’re at a spot for six years, you get really used to the way they do things,” said Winston. “Every coach is going to do things a certain way, but for me, it’s just a matter of getting into the Chiefs mold.”

Crennel knew Winston fit that mold the minute he saw his name on the waiver wire. With Winston in the fold, the Chiefs could boast a rushing attack that brought the Chiefs to the playoffs two seasons ago. Nothing sounded better to a self-described “old school” coach than that, but he needed to sell Winston on that idea.

He did, the sell job worked, and the Chiefs have a new tackle that’s shown nothing but promise in training camp so far.

“I think he felt very comfortable with who we are and what we're trying to get done,” said Crennel. “That goes a long way with these guys when they're looking for places to go.”