Larry Johnson is only two seasons removed from a two-year stretch that saw him rush for over 1,700 yards in each campaign and score 37 total touchdowns. Last year, he rushed for over 100 yards three times between Weeks 3 and 7, so he did show some flashes of his pre-2007 self before he was injured. So there is obvious potential for a rebound season in 2008. Yet there are some certain factors consider before you overrate Johnson for the upcoming year.
An experienced pro football follower knows you'll hear mostly positive stories coming out of early workouts. It's going to be some time before we see Johnson in actual exhibition games, when we can all eyeball him better and see just how "fully healed" he is...Last season around this time, we were all wondering about the recovery of Shaun Alexander from a major foot injury, and many experts, including myself, overrated him for 2007...
Two of Johnson's distinctive traits as a runner, his good vision and outstanding strength, won't be lost. Yet we still have to wait to see if or how much he loses in terms of explosion and acceleration. Will Johnson be able to plant and burst forward with the same confidence as in the past?
Johnson's supporting cast is also a great area of concern. The once-vaunted offensive line, once a source of pride in Chiefs country, is now apparently in a rebuilding mode. A rebounding and recovering Johnson is not going to be helped much if other teams get consistent penetration into the backfield. It's a lot to ask of Johnson not only to regain much of his past form on a foot that will be under a microscope, but also to create his own running room in many situations.
After racking up 416 carries in 2006, Larry Johnson was definitely due for a fall in 2007.
There's also the very questionable passing game that is still a source of real concern in Kansas City. Sure, Chiefs followers have already heard positive reports about Brodie Croyle in early workouts, but we heard even more glowing reports about him last summer, and it was apparent he is not going to scare any defenses yet. While Dwayne Bowe was a revelation and newcomer Devard Darling has some sleeper potential, the Chiefs' passing game still does not strike fear in any defense, even though Tony Gonzalez remains a prime target.
Defenses certainly will key on Johnson, and will dare Croyle to beat them, which I certainly do not believe he is ready to do often at this point of his career. With the current state of the offensive line, opposing players can get into the backfield quickly quite often, which can only hinder Johnson's production.
- Scott Engel, ESPN.com
Engel's apprehension to label Larry Johnson as the NFL's 2008 comeback player of the year is warranted. There are plenty of questions surrounding the Chiefs' offense, and one of them is how to share the ball. The Chiefs have the best tight end to ever play the game in Tony Gonzalez, a young, talented wideout in Dwayne Bowe, and a healthy Larry Johnson.
At the beginning of the 2007 season, every team knew they had to shut down Johnson to beat the Chiefs. He was one of only two weapons they had on the offensive side of the ball, and with no proven deep threat, they could double team Tony Gonzalez without repercussion. Eddie Kennison was an aging possession receiver, Samie Parker had the hands of a brick mason, and Jeff Webb was a sixth-round draft pick.
Coming into the 2008 season, the Chiefs have three proven offensive weapons in Bowe, Johnson, and Gonzalez. They are accompanied by some young speed in rookies Will Franklin and Jamaal Charles. The weapons are there, and Brodie Croyle has the arm to get them the ball. The most critical component of the Chiefs' offense in 2008 will be offensive line play. If there is improvement up front, the rest of the offense will take care of itself.
The Kansas City Chiefs ranked last in the NFL last season in rushing offense with an average of 78 yards per game. They hope to improve on that mark with the selection of running back Jamaal Charles, a third-round pick out of the University of Texas. Charles finished his career with the Longhorns rushing for 3,328 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Charles joins a backfield that includes second-year back Kolby Smith, and two-time Pro Bowler Larry Johnson (foot). Johnson is coming off a season in which he was placed on Injured Reserve, due to a broken bone in his foot, after only eight games. Prior to the start of the 2007 season, Johnson signed a five-year extension that will keep him under contract with the Chiefs through the 2012 season.
To start the season, Charles will be used as the change-of-pace back. Only hovering around 200 pounds, Charles has the ability to be the big-play threat that the Chiefs need. Charles is lightning quick running a 4.38 40-yard dash at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine in February. Charles will also be a factor in the passing game as he has good hands. Head coach Herman Edwards has also flirted with the idea of allowing Charles to return kicks on special teams.
Edwards brought in Chan Gailey to be the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs this season. Gailey's philosophy is a run-oriented offense, as he likes to run the ball to set up the pass. With the two-headed attack in Johnson and Charles, Kansas City should be able to improve on their No. 32 ranking from last season, as well as take the pressure off the passing game.
With the Chiefs relying so heavily on the run this season, it is expected that Charles will see plenty of action. Charles should supply most of his stats through the passing game and in relief of Johnson. Johnson is likely to enter the season as the No. 1 option for the Kansas City, but coming off a season-ending injury it should not be surprising to see his workload considerably reduced. This will open up opportunities for Charles during the season.
Quarterback Brodie Croyle enters his first season as the full-time starter for the Chiefs. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is coming off a strong rookie season (70 receptions, 995 receiving yards, five touchdowns) and should be able to improve in his second year. The Chiefs still have one of the best tight ends in the game in nine-time Pro Bowler Tony Gonzalez. If two of the other receivers, which include Jeff Webb and free-agent addition Devard Darling, can step up, the passing game should be better than a liability. Teams still have to worry about Gonzalez in the middle of the field and that likely will be enough to keep the pressure off the running backs to cause defenses not to stack the box.
-Phillip Backert, KFFL.com
Backert, unlike Engel and many other analysts, actually admits that the Chiefs have formidable weapons on offense, but is he focusing on the wrong ones? His fascination with Jamaal Charles is understandable. He's an absolute speed-demon, he played for a big time program, and had a terrific showing in the 2005 BCS championship game as a freshman, but don't get the idea that the Chiefs are moving towards a two-running back system like that of the Cowboys and Saints.
Also, don't forget about Kolby Smith, a more than serviceable replacement for the injured Johnson last season, as he averaged 3.6 yards per carry. It's not an astonishing statistic, but it's slightly higher than Johnson's rushing average in 2007, and he was on pace for 1,000 yards before breaking his foot.
The absence of Will Franklin's name on Backert's list of possible number two receivers is a sign of ignorance. Franklin was a fantastic receiver during his time at Mizzou, was set for a big senior season, but was overshadowed by an injury and the emergence of All-American Jeremy Maclin. Franklin ran the second fastest 40-time among receivers at the NFL combine, and has the speed to stretch the field and make room for Bowe, Gonzalez, and Johnson to make big plays.
Bowe has the perfect body for football. He's 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, big for an NFL receiver. He can go through the middle and take the most brutal hits. He has breakaway speed, running a 4.5 forty even in high school. He connected with 2007 top draft pick JaMarcus Russell on 23 touchdowns during their career, an LSU school record. All these things caused him to be a hyped draft pick....Then all these things disappeared in one moment. The Kansas City Chiefs picked him with the 23rd overall pick in the 2007 draft.
No one predicted this would kill his career. The Chiefs had just come off their first playoff appearance in several years with a record of 9-7. They had historically had a high scoring offense, always near the top. They had Larry Johnson, the surprise superstar out of Penn State, and Tony Gonzales, the best tight end to ever play the game of football. They also had quarterbacks Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle. Who?
You've never heard of Damon Huard, except that he is a quality backup. But he is a backup, nothing more. Brodie Croyle was a third round choice in 2006 and was not meant to be anything but the next Damon Huard.
A year of these two quarterbacks splitting time, plus the biggest o-line failure of all time caused the high scoring offense to drop to last place. They were 4-11. They had nine straight losses to end their season.
Bowe, at least tried. He caught 70 passes for 995 yards. He had six touchdown catches. Those are remarkably good numbers for a receiver, and not usually the numbers of a failure.
Just imagine this scenario. In the first round of the playoffs two years ago, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Colts, win the Super Bowl, and end up selecting Colt's wide receiver Anthony Gonzales. The Colts would have probably selected Bowe.
This would pair him with the best quarterback in the game, Peyton Manning, and two of its best receivers, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. With Harrison getting hurt early, Bowe would have stepped into the starting role and flourished.
His numbers would have looked something like this: 1,500 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns off of 100 receptions.But, sadly, the Chiefs lost and they drafted Bowe. Now with the Chiefs still looking to be horrible on the offensive end, Bowe will again underachieve. He won't play to his full potential until he is on a different team.
I like the Chiefs, but I like Bowe more. I don't want them to pull down a career that could put him among the game's greatest. Please, Herm, do Bowe a favor and trade him. If this never happens, it will be the biggest tragedy since Romeo and Juliet.
-Dallas Wilson, bleacherreoprt.com
I don't typically enjoy attacking bloggers, but every once in a while I find it fun to point out their inaccuracies.
Mr. Wilson says Bowe has the "perfect body for football." This outward affection for Bowe's physique is downright creepy. He also says that in 2007, the Chiefs were coming off their first playoff appearance in several seasons. Do two seasons out of the playoffs count as several?
Wilson's next mistake comes when he calls Larry Johnson a surprise superstar. Johnson rushed for over 2,000 yards in his final year as a Nittany Lion, was a Heisman finalist, and a first-round pick. SURPRISE!
Wilson then goes after the Chiefs' quarterbacks, saying that Brodie Croyle was meant to be nothing more than a career backup. Many fans don't think highly of President Carl Peterson, but I don't know one who would argue that he used a third-round draft pick on Croyle with the intent to bolster the backup quarterback position.
Wilson then describes the wacky, absurd scenario that lands Bowe with the Indianapolis Colts in the 2007 draft instead of the Chiefs. The most ridiculous part of this scenario is the idea that the Chiefs would have gone on to win the Super Bowl after defeating the Colts in the first round of the 2006 playoffs. It sounds like fun, but the Chiefs barely had a winning record, not the mark of a Super Bowl contender.
Wilson wanted to put Bowe on the Indianapolis Colts to play along side Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. At this point, I'm not sure Matt Millen isn't using Dallas Wilson as an alias.
Wilson's next, and most egregious mistake, is when he calls Bowe being a Chief the greatest tragedy since Romeo and Juliet. Apparently, Wilson, hasn't heard of the Titanic, the Hindenburg, or Britney Spears' career.
Cliff Notes: Offensive Talk
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