KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach drew the start at left guard Sunday against the Oakland Raiders in place of Mike McGlynn.
While Linkenbach had a holding penalty, the early returns are good with coach Andy Reid complimenting Linkenbach’s performance during Monday’s media session.
The head coach, however, stopped short of committing to Linkenbach as the starter for the remaining two regular-season games.
“I thought Jeff did a good job,” Reid told reporters. “And then we’ll see.”
Reid said McGlynn, who started 13 games, sat out because the seventh-year pro is “banged up.” McGlynn suffered a calf contusion in Week 13, but played in Week 14 where he allowed three of the five sacks recorded by the Arizona Cardinals.
The troubles for McGlynn, however, run deeper than just Week 14. He has allowed seven sacks on the season and penalized four times (two holding, two false starts).
Quarterback Alex Smith entered Week 15 with 13 times sacked in the past three games, including 11 in the past two games.
The offensive line with Linkenbach kept Smith relatively clean against the Raiders, allowing just one sack.
“The offensive line I thought played better yesterday as a group,” Reid said. “I thought they played better. We’ve got a big challenge this week with Pittsburgh and we need to keep improving at all spots.”
How the Chiefs intend to man the left guard position once McGlynn is healthy remains to be seen, but Linkenbach proved he’s a viable option to consider if needed.
“We can’t have enough of those guys and we’ll see,” Reid said.
YOUNG PLAYERS EMERGING
The Chiefs are receiving production from young players in recent weeks, but a trio made a big splash against the Oakland Raiders.
Rookie wide receiver Albert Wilson, rookie running back/punt returner De’Anthony Thomas and rookie outside linebacker Dee Ford headlined Week 15.
Wilson had three catches for 69 yards, including a 48-yard reception, on five targets; Thomas posted eight punt returns for 156 yards, including an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown, to record the second-best punt return yardage performance in team history; and Ford recorded three tackles (one solo), ½ sack and two quarterback hits.
“Tribute to John Dorsey,” Reid said of the Chiefs general manager. “We are sitting here later in the year and all of a sudden you are seeing these guys, the Albert Wilsons of the team, produce.”
The Chiefs have received steady production all season from rookie starting right guard right Zach Fulton, rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines and rookie kicker Cairo Santos.
SMITH A FINALIST
Quarterback Alex Smith is among eight finalists for the inaugural NFL Sportsmanship Award, the league announced Monday.
Smith joins Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Minnesota Vikings Chad Greenway, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater and Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
The Sportsmanship Award recognizes players “who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition,” according to the NFL.
Current NFL players will vote on the finalists and the winner will be announced the night before Super Bowl XLIX.
The NFL Foundation will donate $25,000 to a charity of the winner’s choice in addition to the winner receiving a trophy.
SNAP COUNT OBSERVATION
Cornerback Jamell Fleming started at left cornerback against the Raiders and recorded a team-high 78 defensive snaps against Oakland’s 80 offensive snaps. Fleming also recorded a team-high eight tackles, all solo, along with two passes defensed.
Free safety Husain Abdullah was second in defensive snaps with 71.