Well, the running-game is clearly dead. Not for the reasons that I had feared, but, because of play-calling.
Priest Holmes was THE premier running back in the N.F.L., and L.J. was supposed to be that, this season. However, The Chiefs have abandoned the playbook that helped their running-game to become the envy of the N.F.L.
Gone, are the sweeps with two O-linemen and a full-back leading the way. They have been replaced with a "defensive running "attack". By defensive, I mean that the plan is to run L.J. at the defense and have him hit defenders. This results in falling down, for L.J.
Instead of using the strongest suit of our offensive line,(pulling) the Chiefs seem content to run at the middle, despite being out-numbered.
This worked well for L.J. last season, because teams were unable to laod up the box. If you load the box then you will get your defenders caught inside, when the sweep is run. Therefore, defenses were spread wider.(due to years of Priest running amuck on the outside.) Also, when running between the tackles last season, there was a full back and, often, a pulling O-lineman leading the way through the hole. Todays Chiefs have noone leading the way. The hole is usually filled with.......... a linebacker.
I realize that Ronnie Cruz is not Tony Richardson. I am also aware that OTs Willie Roaf and John Welbourne are replaced with Jordan Black and Kevin Sampson. However, this is no reason to abandon the most successful running game that this franchise has ever seen. While Cruz may not be able to annihilate defenders in the manner which T-Rich did, run-blocking is not very complicated, on the outside. Also, Jordan Blacks weakness has been in the pass protection. Both he and Kevin Sampson are quite a load as run-blockers.
The incredible blockers that remain on the Chiefs are being mis-used. When they are pulling out front of a running play, and they have a running start at defenders, they are at their best. Otherwise, they are being asked to underachieve.
Considering the situation that the offense has been put in, the passing-game has been terrific. Pass-blockers have stepped it up, and Damon Huard has filled-in admirably. The offense struggles due to conservative play-calling and the subtraction of the fullback position. If Cruz is so inept at his position, then remove one of the two tight-ends (Dunn) and have him play the position. It wouldn't be some dramatic transformation.
I blame L.J. himself, to some extent. He has been very vocal about his desire to run "between the tackles". Also, I don't see any effort from him, on the rare occaision that he is asked to run the sweep.(Eventhough there is noone leading the way.) It is my opinion that he has "shanked" a few of them.
Larry Johnson may be a tough guy, but he cannot be expected to be successful when he is finding the defense before he can find the line of scrimmage. That is ,in my opinion, why his yards per carry percentage is down from 5.2, in 2005, to 3.4, in 2006.