First Quarter Running Backs Grades

The November Cover Boys of Warpaint Illustrated have had both success and failures through the first four games of the season. But unfortunately more of the latter has plagued what should be the leagues premier running back combo. The problem is that the Chiefs are trying to hard to use both of them and need to find a better balance the rest of the season.

Mike Nugent - The biggest bright spot of the Kansas City Chiefs young season has been the play of the running backs. Halfbacks Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson have been superb, even with questionable offensive line play. The first two games of the season, the two backs combined were a lethal 1-2 punch. It seemed the Chiefs then got caught up in trying to rotate the two on a set schedule, hindering both players ability to find a rhythm against opposing defenses.

Priest Holmes has been his usual solid self, showing the same patience and speed he has shown his entire career in Kansas City. The Chiefs are going to need him to help settle down an offense that has been out of sorts most of the young season. Larry Johnson has been up and down, but overall he has been solid. He's had the first two fumbles of his career the last two games, one of which was a killer against the Eagles, helping to change the complexion of a loss where the Chiefs saw themselves up 18 points. In Johnson's defense, he was hit as he was taking the handoff, never getting the opportunity to gain control of football.

Holmes and Johnson have shown that properly managed, the two can be a potent combination. This Chiefs offense can punish defenses with the two backs, but they must make sure that they allow at least one of the backs establish a rhythm and use the other back as a changeup. These two running backs have been great, but the Chiefs can let them be even better.

Fullback Tony Richardson has been solid, although even he has tapered off in time in protecting quarterback Trent Green. Richardson must raise his play, along with the offensive line, if the offense is going to improve.
Chiefs Running Backs Grade: B

Nick Athan - Let's start with Tony Richardson who does nothing but show an amazing ability to block hole after hole for Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. Richardson's dedication and preparation is something every member on this team needs to emulate.

As far as the ‘Rhythm & Blues Backfield' they've each had stellar moments. Johnson showed his flash in the first two games scoring three touchdowns. Johnson is the ‘home run' hitter that every NFL team hopes they have from their running back. But he's struggled mightily the last two weeks, fumbling the ball two times. Johnson is a game breaker that needs touches to be effective. He can score from any point on the field.

Holmes is a freak of nature and if he was better utilized the Chiefs wouldn't be 2-2 at the break. Why the Chiefs decided to take Holmes out of the game when he was running all over the Eagles is difficult to understand. That is the $64,000 question.

This team has to change its philosophies and stay with the hot hand a little more. Holmes should have been fed the ball until his legs fell off or the Eagles finally stopped him. Then bring in Johnson and let him try his hand.

Granted the absence of All-World Tackle Willie Roaf has hurt the continuity of the running game but it's not a good excuse. Running the ball is all about attitude and the Chiefs are not flashing enough of it during the game. That has to change as this offense can't succeed without a strong running game.
Chiefs Running Backs Grade: B-

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