Healthy Johnson, Infusion of New Talent Look to Improve Running Game

Matt BrowningContributor IAugust 17, 2008

Only four times last season did the Kansas City Chiefs rush for over 100 yards. Not by coincidence they were 3-1 in those games.


Over the last 15 years, the staple of the organization has been a powerful offensive line to anchor a ground game that took the life out of their opponents. Nine times in the last 15 seasons, the Chiefs were in the top ten in team rushing and last year was the first time in the past six years where they didn’t finish in the top ten in rushing.


There were many factors as to why the Chiefs’ running attack fell so far. Two-time pro bowler Larry Johnson broke his foot in week 9, and then aside from Brian Waters, the rest of K.C.’s offensive line was patched in by veteran journeymen.


Both weaknesses appear to be fixed, at least to a certain degree, this season. Johnson is fully healthy and showed the same bruising style of running in the Chief’s first two preseason games that he’s become known for. While the offensive line has plenty of questions, the talent upgrade is apparent, with a sufficient left side with Waters and first round pick Brandon Albert.


A new offensive system, brought in by new coordinator Chan Gailey, will also prove to be beneficial to the ground attack. Gone is the finesse style running that featured plenty of tosses, sweeps and outside runs and in its place is a power running game that will utilize the strengths of the offensive line, with more dives, counters and traps.


Although Johnson will get the bulk of the work, the Chiefs have depth at the position that can make their offense a little less predictable. Rookie Jamal Charles is a perfect change of pace back to Johnson. He’s more of a speed back that can hit holes in a hurry and has game breaking speed.


Also figuring into the mix is Kolby Smith, who filled in after Johnson’s injury last year. Smith is similar to Johnson, in the fact he’s a bruising back that isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder.


It’s difficult to imagine the Chiefs’ running game falling any further than it did last season, where they averaged a little over 3 yards per carry and finished with only six touchdowns.


The statistics will be better, as will Johnson and the offensive line. The question now becomes, will the days of old, when people were scared to play the Chiefs because of the power running game, be brought back to Arrowhead Stadium?


Unlike many of the team’s running plays last season, the new running game is headed in the right direction.