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Jared Gaither Sitting In Driver's Seat To Determine Kansas City Chiefs' Future At Left Tackle

Gaither's left-side positioning at Chiefs camp says more than what you might think.

The commentary on Branden Albert started immediately after the Kansas City Chiefs selected him in the 2008 NFL Draft with the No. 15 overall selection. He was a guard taken incredibly high in the draft, yet the Chiefs quickly announced the intentions to move him to left tackle. A decent first season with 15 starts after missing much of camp brought accolades and hope that Albert would fully embody the franchise left tackle mold that most franchises in the NFL search for year after year.

Yet that reality has never quite materialized, and perhaps those expectations were rather unfair. Albert has exhibited above average skills since day one and, thus far, the Chiefs commitment to Albert as the blindside tackle has never wavered. Until now. Jared Gaither is now in camp as the latest Chiefs free agent signee, and the potential in a player of Gaither's size and strength combined with his experience with the Ravens already seems to have muddied the waters around Albert.

Not that Albert isn't used to it -- at least if he reads enough of the press about him. Almost every draft since selecting Albert, the conjecture has been whether or not the Chiefs should shift Albert inside to his college position of guard or even over to the right side to stop the bleeding on that side of the line. Last year, Barry Richardson did a serviceable job while Albert maintained his hold for a third straight season, so this off-season much of the discussion centered on upgrading the right side. Again, until now.

Jared Gaither has intensified some of the overall discussion on Albert's role with the team and refocused the main issue from the right tackle position to the left. Haley's initial words about Gaither were that he's seen him play on both sides of the line and that he's a capable tackle. But given today's reality in practice, it seems the vision is clearer in Haley's mind than what you might have been led to believe within the first couple of days of Gaither's signing.

Gaither started on the left side for the second unit today in practice, and Haley mentioned afterward that it was going to stay that way for a bit as the Chiefs personnel got to know their latest addition.

"I would say we’ll probably start at left and then go from there," Haley said. "First and foremost is trying to get him into baseline physical condition that we feel like gives him a chance to succeed safely."

Of course, that's no guarantee, and Haley isn't foolish enough to make any declarative statements at this point in camp. But positioning Gaither at left tackle, even with the second unit, means he's getting precious reps with the intention to stay there for a bit at a position that the Chiefs might have previously seemed "set" at. If Gaither was really going to be brought in to anchor the right side, he would be getting his reps in the limited amount of training camp he has with his new team on the right side.

The reason his early positioning in practice plays into this so much is that Gaither sat out all of last season with a back injury that wouldn't let him play. It's surprising the Chiefs already have him out there, since health concerns ultimately kept the Raiders from signing him instead. Getting back into the flow of camp and being in game shape is going to take some time, so if Gaither is really going to be on the right side, it's not only about getting him into game shape but he'll also need to learn a new position from the one he's manned in Baltimore.

Instead, Haley has Gaither on the left side, which means the primary focus is to see if Gaither has what it takes to better the blindside tackle position. That means that Branden Albert is now subject to whatever the team decides about Gaither's potential. There's a new potential first chair and the movement will affect everyone. Albert will certainly remain a starter along Kansas City's offensive line. It's finally a matter of where he will start after a few years of debate.