State Of The Chiefs: Running Back

The third installment of Warpaint's look at Kansas City's roster covers the running backs. The starting position is set with Larry Johnson poised for a big season. Behind Johnson there are questions, especially if Priest Holmes retires.

Larry Johnson

Johnson answered every question about his ability to play in the NFL last year, posting a breakout season of 1,750 yards and 20 touchdowns. After toiling as a backup to Priest Holmes the last few seasons, Johnson has nailed down the starting role.

Big, strong, fast and possessing good vision, Johnson has few holes in his game. His only real concern is improving his pass protection. He's physical enough and smart enough to block most defenders, so it's just a matter of knowing what his responsibilities are and turning that knowledge into instinct. Now that he's spent the off-season preparing to be the starter, Johnson's pass protection should be greatly improved.

Priest Holmes

No one knows for sure if Priest Holmes will return, but it likely won't be this season. The Chiefs are entering the season with the hope that Holmes will be back. He may start the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list, but by the time he'd be eligible to come back, he'll have spent an entire year away from football.

Dee Brown

With Holmes out of the picture, the 5'10", 210-pound Brown has the inside track to take over as Johnson's primary backup. In his second year with the Chiefs, Brown has game experience, but couldn't distinguish himself last season. Brown is similar in size to Holmes, and has better speed, but lacks Holmes' vision. With a strong camp, he could find himself as Johnson's primary backup.

Brown needs to prove to the Chiefs that he can be consistent, and can gain the tough yards between the tackles.

McKenzi Smith

Entering his third year with the Chiefs, Smith was an un-drafted free agent who spent all of last season on the practice squad. This is probably Smith's last opportunity to make the team. So far this off-season, Smith hasn't shown the Chiefs a lot. He's been solid, if not impressive. There's still time for him to make a splash in training camp.

Quentin Griffin

The diminutive Griffin was picked up by the Chiefs this off-season after being cut by the Denver Broncos in 2005. The Chiefs signed the 5'7", 195-pound Griffin as an insurance policy in the event that Holmes retires. Griffin is a smaller, faster version of Holmes without the same vision. He's got his work cut out for himself if he wants to make the team. Griffin will have to prove himself not only a capable runner, but he'll have to play special teams, something he hasn't done much in his career.

Derrick Ross

At 5'10", 238 pounds, Ross is a physically imposing running back. He went un-drafted, but tried out for the Chiefs at rookie camp and made such an impression that the Chiefs immediately signed him to a contract. Since then, the young back has done nothing but improve, displaying power and speed. He matches Johnson's size and explosive running style better than anyone else on the roster. The Chiefs coaches are taking a special interest in him, working with him after practices.

DeArrius Howard

A longshot to make the team, the 5'11", 225-pound un-drafted free agent out of Arkansas has an uphill battle ahead of him. Howard could make the practice squad if he shows something this summer. His size makes him an intriguing special teams' candidate, but the Chiefs likely won't give the third running back position to a project like Howard.

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