Johnson Moves Up the Depth Chart

It's been a strtuggle for first round draft pick Larry Johnson but his hard work is about to pay off. Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil gives the former Penn State star a promotion.

RB Larry Johnson, the team's No. 1 draft pick last April, has been elevated to the No. 2 running back position behind Priest Holmes. Johnson, who has been a game-day active for only one of the first eight games, moves ahead of Derrick Blaylock, who will remain active as a key special teams player.

"When I see him on the practice field running against our defense, he shows those intrinsic talents that are hard to coach," Vermeil said in explaining the change. "Sooner or later, if we need him, I want him to have the confidence that he's ready to go."

RB Derrick Blaylock, who carried the ball only six times (for 30 yards) as the backup to Priest Holmes in the season's first eight games, will be moved to No. 3 on the depth chart. But Blaylock will retain his roles on Kansas City's outstanding special teams. He is a key blocker in the kickoff wedge that sprung Dante Hall loose for two kickoff returns this year.

MLB Mike Maslowski said Monday that his knee injury has been diagnosed as a sprain of the medial collateral ligament. The injury will heal without surgery but may keep Maslowski sidelined for a couple more weeks. He likely will be listed as doubtful for this week's Cleveland game.

TE Billy Baber appears to be the leading candidate to go on the game-day inactive list after the Chiefs made RB Larry Johnson their No. 2 running back. The Chiefs play a lot of two-tight end formations, which they'd be hard-pressed to do should Tony Gonzalez or Jason Dunn be hurt with Baber inactive. But that's a gamble they seem ready to take to create a game-day spot for Johnson, who has been active in only one game in the first half of the season.

LB Kawika Mitchell, Kansas City's second-round draft pick this year, will likely get his first NFL start Sunday against Cleveland when he replaces the injured Mike Maslowski at middle linebacker against Cleveland. Mitchell, who missed three weeks of training camp and four regular-season games with hamstring injuries, is yet to be credited with a tackle on the defensive charts kept by Chiefs coaches.

"Those type of things give you a chance to get out of your realm, get away from answering the same football questions. When you get to do other things, it puts you in a great state of mind. When you come back to practice you say, 'OK, I've had my fun, my body feels good, let's go to work.'" Chiefs WR Johnnie Morton, who filmed a "Win a Date with a Pro" segment for the Fox Sports Network's "Best Damn Sports Show."

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- By definition, Trent Green's 86.7 quarterback rating is just above average -- No. 13 in the NFL after eight games. Wide receivers Johnnie Morton and Eddie Kennison have been more cold than hot, though tight end Tony Gonzalez has stepped up nicely in his last three outings. Still, the Chiefs have only one 300-yard passing game (Green Bay) and three 100-yard receiving games. Pass protection, though, has been excellent.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Priest Holmes get an A for leading the league in total yards from scrimmage (1,103) despite a reduced workload (44 fewer touches) in a season that began with questions surrounding his hip/health. But the grade gets reduced because of negative plays in critical situations -- most notably, the failure of one of the NFL's best backs, running behind one of the best lines, to get kill-the-clock first downs in wins at Baltimore and Oakland.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Their No. 25 ranking screams out for a lower grade, but 18 interceptions silence that cry. Bend-don't-break will likely break, however, when facing better opposition at tournament time.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Four opponents -- Jamal Lewis, Clinton Portis, Ahman Green and Travis Henry -- have gashed the Chiefs for 115 or more yards. That could loom big come playoff time when most teams pound the ball in cold weather. The Chiefs ranked 24th after eight games.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Jason Baker's inconsistent punting can't detract from Dante Hall's record-setting four touchdown returns in as many games, or in the way he creates field position when teams try to kick away. Morten Andersen has been decent in hitting 8 of 10 field goals with 4-of-6 accuracy from 40-plus.

COACHING: A -- Vermeil has created an atmosphere that makes his players want to give more, more and more for their head coach. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson gets high marks for changing his pass coverage. In going to more zones, he sacrifices yards to allow his defenders a better chance to see and break on passes. Offensive coordinator Al Saunders does a nice job of firing different weapons at different times. How potent would this offense be if they all fired at once? Special teams coach Frank Gansz, Jr., could be Missouri's governor in a recall election. Top Stories