Ranking the Running Game Pt. 32: Kansas City Chiefs

Jeff LittleSenior Writer IApril 6, 2008

Part 32 of a 32 part series, a running back position analysis of each franchise. The Kansas City Chiefs are coming off of a disappointing season that ended with a nine-game losing streak, a 4-12 record and several questions and very few answers. The losing streak was a disastrous finish to Coach Herm Edwards’ second year at the helm.

Since his arrival, Edwards has stressed the need to get younger, and he’ll continue to follow that trend in 2008. Chan Gailey was named the offensive coordinator; he will replace Mike Solari. Gailey is renowned for helping to establish hard-nosed running games at Pittsburgh & Dallas. This also gives the Chiefs two coordinators with head coaching experience as Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, was the Chiefs’ head man in 1999 and 2000.

“Toughness” is the theme Edwards is emphasizing as he attempts to rebuild a once-potent offense that through age and attrition dropped to dead last in rushing and next-to-worst in scoring and total yards in 2007. Offensively the Chiefs have signed free agent WR Devard Darling who was released by the Ravens to play opposite Dwayne Bowe. The Chiefs needs going into free agency and the draft are OT, CB, OG, C, QB and a Return man. The Chiefs as a team rushed for 78 yards per game.


·        Larry Johnson: 6’ 1” 230 lbs, 158 Att, 559 Yards, 3.5 YPC Avg, 3 TD’s

·        Kolby Smith: 5’ 11” 219 lbs, 112 Att, 407 Yards, 3.6 YPC Avg, 2 TD’s

·        Priest Holmes: 5’ 9” 213 lbs,   46 Att, 137 Yards, 3.0 YPC Avg.

·        Jackie Battle: 6’ 2” 235 lbs,     14 Att,   47 Yards, 3.4 YPC Avg, 1 TD


The Chiefs were once one of the league’s most respected running games, offensive line problems and injuries set the Chiefs spinning to a dead-last rating—the worst production in years. The Chiefs were 4-3 when Larry Johnson, a 1,700-yard rusher the previous two seasons, went down with a broken bone in his foot. The Chiefs kept him on the active roster in hopes that he would return, but he couldn’t.


He wasn’t tearing it up prior to the injury averaging 3.5 yards on 158 carries. Priest Holmes attempted a brief comeback before retiring with a recurrence of the neck problems that forced him out in 2005. Rookie Smith stepped up nicely in six starts. He showed flashes, including some elusiveness and tackle-breaking ability but still averaged only 3.6 yards per carry.


Neither converted tight end Kris Wilson or converted linebacker Boomer Grigsby showed signs of being a reliable fullback. So the Chiefs brought in Oliver Hoyt from the Cowboys; a converted linebacker that made a decent transition to fullback in early 2006 before hitting a wall so to speak.  


The Chiefs don’t have a need to draft running back in this draft. The Chiefs need to rebuild their offensive line and in the 1stround hope Jake Long falls to them or go after Ryan Clady. It would be wise to spend two or three choices in the draft on the Offensive line. Ty Law was cut making the need for a cornerback bigger; the need can be filled with Auburn’s Patrick Lee.


Life without Dante Hall has been rough for this team starting the majority of their drives in their own territory, drafting Troy CB/RS Leodis McKelvin will fill two needs in one draft pick. The Chiefs could also go after Virginia Tech’s Eddie Royal. The Chiefs could also trade down and acquire more draft picks to fill more team needs as well.

Question for the Chiefs: Can Chan Gailey bring Herm Edwards the tough, physical offense he’s dreamed of for two years?  What will the Chiefs do if QB Matt Ryan falls into their laps with the fifth pick? Will this be the second draft in a row that the Chiefs seek depth at WR?