The second year back took over as the primary runner on the Chiefs second touchdown drive of the first half. Johnson gained a respectable 46 yards rushing on ten carries on the game. He might have even more yards from scrimmage on that drive if not for two poorly thrown screen passes from Trent Green.
The first had the Chargers fooled and Johnson might have run to Lawrence before he was touched as San Diego only had one defensive player on that side of the field. The other would have netted a first down but it was thrown near the ground.
Still Johnson had the type of game that many Chiefs fans have been waiting for and with Derrick Blaylock set to test the free agent waters; Kansas City already has Johnson under contract for another five seasons. Blaylock is gifted but he's not a power runner and his best assets are to run straight ahead. He has trouble gaining the tough yards inside the tackles because of his size.
Granted speed kills in the NFL but its meaningless if you can't use it against defenses that are designed to stop the run. As for Johnson, he has the ability to be a power runner and someone who is much better suited to compliment Priest Holmes.
Speaking of Holmes, it's not clear if he'll be back in 2005 and Blaylock wants to be a starter and should get several offers from NFL teams looking for a quality back. The Chiefs need to find out first and foremost if Holmes is going to return and they have to start questioning his durability. It could be weeks before Holmes is ready to play and with the playoffs out of reach, it makes little sense to play him the rest of the season.
With so much invested in Johnson, Kansas City would be foolish to not give him the ball the rest of the season. It makes little sense to play Blaylock considering the fact they already know what he can do.
Johnson has been put in an awkward position since he came to the Chiefs as a highly touted first round draft pick. Dick Vermeil has made it clear that he did not want the organization to draft Johnson instead he preferred to go after a defensive player. The player Vermeil wanted was linebacker Boss Bailey who ended being selected early in the second round by the Detroit Lions.
Bailey played well his rookie season but he's been injured this year and has yet to get on the field so it's not known if he would have made the type of impact that Vermeil envisioned but we'll never know. Nor should Vermeil keep punishing Johnson considering it's not a well known secret he didn't want Johnson in the first place. You have to give props to the young man who's been put in a terrible position by the enitre Chiefs organization.
Granted Johnson has brought some of the issues to light with his off-the-field incident a year ago and his comments earlier in the year when his head coach made the infamous ‘Diaper' quote that made the rounds of the NFL media.
That gives further fuel to the fire that Vermeil should do the right thing and play Johnson now ahead of Blaylock the rest of the season. The 2004 season is lost and it's not about winning football games anymore but instead about evaluating talent because this roster needs a major shake-up if they want to compete in 2005.
Granted Blaylock had two rushing touchdowns on Sunday in the Chiefs 34-31 loss but that does not mean that Johnson would not have been able to do the same thing and score both of those touchdowns. It's a very difficult position for this organization to be in as they continue to struggle at evaluating talent on draft day and during the season. Though the 2004 Draft crop is incomplete it appears that this class might be able to add some much needed depth on both sides of the ball. They have at least one starter in place for next year in defensive end Jared Allen and Junior Siavii could supplant Ryan Sims next season as a starter.
Still Vermeil preaches loyalty to his players and that has been his downfall especially with retaining so many defensive veterans this past off-season and so many offensive veterans after the 2002 season. He needs to show that loyalty to Johnson because this team faces a crisis after the season concludes January 2nd in San Diego.
The Chiefs have to pick their cap hits next season and with so many aging veterans on the roster both on offense and defense it makes more sense to keep Johnson because of the cap number for next season versus what it will cost the Chiefs in trying to resign Blaylock.
The future is now and Kansas City needs to start looking at things from the outside looking in if they want to start the rebuilding process for next year. That first look should be directed at Larry Johnson.