Is It Time to Bench Larry Johnson?

Steve SwearenginContributor IOctober 15, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 11:  Running back Larry Johnson #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs walks off the field during the game against the Dallas Cowboys on October 11, 2009 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Is the lack of Chiefs' rushing production Larry Johnson's fault, the offensive line's fault, or a combination of both?

The real question: Is it time for the Chiefs to just move on?

Todd Haley says—not yet.

Johnson has been the primary back in Kansas City since 2005, including two Pro Bowl years in 2005 and 2006. However, the last two seasons have been marred by injury, off-the-field trouble, and suspensions. LJ is 29 years old, in his seventh season in the NFL, and already seems to be on the wrong side of the proverbial "hill."

In five games, LJ has 226 yards on the ground with NO touchdowns. What worries me most is the fact that he is averaging only 2.4 yards a carry. 

With that said, the offensive line has been horrendous to this point of the season. Matt Cassel rarely has time to wait for plays to open up, and defenders are always in the backfield when LJ gets a handoff.

I believe the time has come to utilize Jamaal Charles more in the running game. My reasoning for this isn't because I think LJ is completely worthless in the running game; it's just that with the line in the shape that it is, the Chiefs would be better off with a more elusive, explosive back. They need a back that can create his own holes if needed...which is roughly 85 percent of the time.

I know there have been some rumblings of Coach Haley's dislike/disappointment with Charles, and an opening kickoff fumble two weeks ago doesn't help matters much with a coach that demands perfection. That is part of the reason why Haley is not ready to give up on LJ.

In fact, for the first time since Haley has been in KC, I heard him stick up for LJ. “The kid ran hard,” Haley said. “He stuck it in there. He needs a little help, too” [regarding the Dallas game last week].

It doesn't sound like Haley is ready to pull the plug on LJ just yet. Now with Cassel finally starting to look like an NFL QB, it sounds like the Chiefs are going to start opening up the passing attack.

Everything is falling in place to start using Charles more. The Chiefs need a spark in their running attack, fans need to see more offense, and Cassel needs a little respect from opposing defenses with the running attack to open up the no-huddle. 

I say now is the time to have Charles as the No. 1 back, have Charles as the workhorse, explosive back, and bring in LJ in short yardage situations. They really should try to replicate what Tennessee is doing with Chris Johnson and LenDale White. The quick one is the tempo back, and the "bruiser" is the guy you put in on 3rd-and-2.

With the lack of holes in our offensive line, Charles is the back that can make something out of nothing, because right now nothing is being made out of nothing with LJ in the backfield. It's time to make a change.