Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks/Chiefs, Vol. 1

In Part One of our four-part game preview series, Seahawks.NET's Scott Eklund asks WarpaintIllustrated.com's Nick Athan five questions. Nick gives us the inside take on Larry Johnson's season, the offensive line after Willie Roaf's retirement, Tony Gonzales' matchup problems, and the Arrowhead Stadium faithful.

Scott Eklund, Seahawks.NET: Heading into the season, many predicted that Larry Johnson could challenge for the league-record of 2,105 yards set by Eric Dickerson in 1984. So far, his season total of 489 yards would have to be considered a mild disappointment. Why has he struggled so much this season?

Nick Athan, Warpaint Illustrated: Count me as one of those who thought he’d shatter Dickerson’s rushing record. Johnson has really struggled running behind an offensive line that is superior on the inside but weak on the outside. Tackles Jordan Black and Kevin Sampson don’t excel in their run blocking skills so the Chiefs offensive mindset is to run him up the middle behind pro bowl guards Will Shields and Brian Waters.

He had a breakout game on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, so maybe he’s turned the corner. He’s capable of being a dominating player again but he has to be more patient at the line of scrimmage and use his natural running instincts to cut back against the grain.


Scott Eklund: Has the retirement of OT Willie Roaf affected the line that much, or has the team been able to mask the huge hole he left on the left side?

Nick Athan: It’s been a devastating loss for the offensive line. As I mentioned Black has struggled mightily in the run game and Kyle Turley has been slowed by a sore back and has been unable to play the last three games. The Chiefs were caught off guard by the retirement of Roaf and outside of signing Turley there wasn’t much available in the open market once summer hit.

Now the Chiefs are hoping Turley can come back and recently reinstated tackle John Welbourn could find his way back into the starting lineup on the right side. If that happens, then the loss of Roaf won’t be as significant, but right now, it still stings.


Scott Eklund: How long will Trent Green be out, we’ve heard rumors it could be a few more weeks, and how has Damon Huard looked in his five starts? Is the team solidly behind Huard and what is expected to happen when Green returns to action if the Chiefs are on a roll?

Nick Athan: Green won’t be back in the starting lineup for at least three more games. He’s been cleared to practice but he won’t get many reps in practice this week. Green hasn’t played in a game since the season opener and it’ll take some time to get back into a rhythm and shake off the rust.

Huard has been impressive, to say the least, especially when you consider the fact that most if not all of the Chiefs fan base felt he could not lead this team to any wins. When Green went down on opening day, there was a collective thump in the Chiefs nation. However, Huard has gained the respect of the players around him and has done a great job of spreading the ball to all of his receivers and backs. What’s been amazing to watch is his ability to move up in the pocket. His arm is much stronger than he’d shown at anytime after watching him the last three plus seasons.

But regardless of how well Huard does in Green’s absence, when he’s healthy, Green will take over the reigns of what had been the NFL’s top rated offense the last four years.


Scott Eklund: Seattle recently has received notice of being the best home-field advantage in the league with its raucous crowds. Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium has long been known as one of the tougher places to play as well. What gets Chiefs fans so into the game and why is it so loud in there?

Nick Athan: No offense to the Seahawks fans, but I want a recount on that vote. Arrowhead is the most difficult environment to play in the NFL. The fans are smart and the players turn it up a notch. The Chiefs don’t lose too often at Arrowhead because the fans never give up on their teams. Granted they lost their season opener to the Cincinnati Bengals, but the outcome of that game might have been different if Green hadn’t been injured in the third quarter.

Chargers Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer spent ten seasons in Kansas City. He admitted before last Sunday’s contest against the Chiefs that Arrowhead had the best home-field advantage in the league.

For the fans, the game starts three hours before kick-off and they don’t stop screaming, cheering or supporting their team until the final tick of the clock has expired and the game is over.

What makes this crowd so amazing is that they’re truly the 12th man on the field. I’ve seen first hand how they can impact and change the fortunes of a game. There are no better fans in the NFL than those sitting in the stands at Arrowhead.


Scott Eklund: Is TE Tony Gonzales used correctly in the Chiefs’ offensive system? With the spread offense that Dick Vermeil used, he seemed to be playing out of position, but now with Herm Edwards’ offense he seems to be feeling much more comfortable.

Nick Athan: Though he had a breakout game against the San Diego Chargers last weekend, he’s not happy with his lack of touches on the football field. He’s had to spend a significant part of the game concentrating on supporting the run. He’s been asked to pitch in and help both offensive tackles. He’s underrated as a pass blocker but he wants the ball.

He showed last weekend that he’s still one of the best tight ends in the NFL. The Chargers needed four and five players to bring him down and he was all nails on the final drive of the game as he hauled in a pair of 15-yard catches that set up K Lawrence Tynes’ game-winning 53-yard field goal.

Those who think he’s on the downward side of his career are sadly mistaken. The Chiefs have to get him more touches and as long as teams refuse to cover him with a linebacker or safety, he’ll have more games like he did against the Chargers especially if the Chiefs start running the ball like they’ve done in years past.


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