Larry Johnson had his first 100-yard rushing game of the 2009 season last Sunday in Cincinnati’s victory over Cleveland. There was nothing fancy with his 107 yards on 22 carries, an average of 4.9 yards per carry; not bad for a guy who averaged 2.9 yards every time he ran the ball with the Chiefs this year.
Even though L.J. had a 100-yard game, there’s nobody around the Chiefs wishing he was back with the team. Forget the off-field stuff and focus just on football. With the offensive line that the Chiefs have right now and Todd Haley’s scheme in its first year, Jamaal Charles is better fit than Johnson.
It’s already showing on the field.
“Here’s a kid we put through a little adversity early and sat him, and he’s fought and pushed and everybody is getting a little excited about him,” said Todd Haley, who is one of those people getting excited.
That excitement starts with how Charles has handled himself in several tough situations, from not dressing for the Oakland game in September because of practice habits and focus, to fumbling the opening kickoff against the New York Giants, to his big fumble last Sunday in San Diego. He’s handled the bad with the good and it’s not led to any outbursts, tweets on Twitter, Facebook comments or the like.
Johnson sat out the Jacksonville game on his one-game club suspension and was released the next week. Charles has been the starter for the last four games and he’s run the ball 55 times for 290 yards, a 5.3-yard per carry average with two rushing touchdowns. In his seven starts, L.J. ran 132 times for 377 yards, a 2.9-yard per carry average with no touchdowns.
It’s not like there have been wholesale changes in the offensive line between the time Johnson was the focus to now when Charles is the lead dog. Right guard has been the weakest link in the club’s offensive line chain all season, whether Mike Goff, Andy Alleman or Wade Smith. Currently it is Smith, who seems to have laid claim to the job while filling in for the injured Alleman, who took over for the injured Goff.
Why has Charles been more effective than Johnson? The biggest factors are his speed and his running style. Charles has shown the ability to get to the edge with options. Johnson could get to the edge, but his lack of quickness allowed defenses to continue to string him out and stop the run for little or no gain.
Charles’s quickness allows him to get to the edge and then he has options of where he wants to run. He plants his foot, goes up field and boom, he’s suddenly has five yards.
All this is especially helpful to the offensive line. Across the board the 2009 Chiefs have little margin for error, and that’s especially true along the O-line. But Charles with his speed and quickness allows the linemen to be less than perfect with their blocks. The blockers need to sustain a block for a shorter period of time, and they can get less of their man on the block and Charles can still make something out of the play.
It was evident in watching this offensive line blocking for Johnson that they had to be too perfect, and that wasn’t something they were going to achieve with the players on hand.
The other aspect that Charles brings to the offense is in the passing game as a receiver. Try as he might – and he did try – Johnson was not very effective in the passing game. His 78-yard catch and run on a screen pass against Arizona back in 2006 was a marvelous effort that helped the Chiefs beat the Cardinals that day. But over the last three seasons, there were fewer and fewer plays from Johnson in the passing game.
Since he became the starter, Charles has 12 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. His catch last Sunday against the Chargers was a thing of beauty. Back at the start of the regular season, Haley and his offensive staff had Charles spend time every week with the wide receivers catching footballs. In those practices, he ran receivers routes, not running back routes.
That extra work really showed up on the 49-yard play against San Diego. Charles had to adjust to coverage from CB Quentin Jammer and an underthrown ball from QB Matt Cassel. He did both on the fly and caught the ball.
And despite the fact Charles is 30 pounds lighter than Johnson he’s actually a better blocker in the backfield when it comes to helping with pass protection.
Timing is everything and right now Jamaal Charles is the back to get something done in the Chiefs offense.
CHIEFS MAKE SOME PRACTICE SQUAD MOVES
On Tuesday, the Chiefs added DT Derek Lokey to their practice squad and released DT Marlon Favorite.
Lokey signed with the Chiefs last year as an undrafted college free agent out of the University of Texas. He spent most of the year on the practice squad, but was activated for the ‘08 finale in Cincinnati. He was released on September 5th in the final cutdown before the start of the regular season.
The Chiefs still have a spot open on their developmental squad after WR Quinten Lawrence was promoted to the active roster before the game in San Diego.
SIGNINGS, INJURIES & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
- BEARS – signed LB Cato June.
- BUCCANEERS – signed P Sam Paulescu.
- CHARGERS – released OT Corey Clark; signed LB Marques Harris.
- COLTS – released DE Josh Thomas and CB Anthony Madison.
- EAGLES – released RB Ramzee Robinson; promoted WR Jordan Norwood from the practice squad; signed TE Brent Celek to a six-year contract extension.
- FALCONS – released K Jason Elam and LS Bryan Pittman; signed K Matt Bryant and LS Joe Zelenka.
- 49ERS – promoted RB Brit Miller from the practice squad.
- PANTHERS – released LB Kelvin Smith; signed LB Quinton Culberson.
FROM THE PAGES OF CHIEFS HISTORY
On December 2, 1962, the Dallas Texans lost to the Buffalo Bills 23-14 at War Memorial Stadium. A crowd of 35,261 saw the home team jump to 16-0 lead and rode that to victory. The Texans were shutout in the first half, but scored in the second half on a 13-yard TD pass from QB Len Dawson to TE Fred Arbanas. Later Dawson connected with TE Tommy Brooker for a 28-yard score. The Texans turned the ball over four times. RB Curtis McClinton (right) had 100 yards in total offense, including a 40-yard run. Bills QB Jack Kemp was 21 of 35 for 248 yards and a pair of TD passes.
On December 2, 1973, the Chiefs tied the Cleveland Browns 20-20 in front of 70,296 fans at Arrowhead Stadium. The visitors scored twice late in the fourth quarter to even the score and escape with a tie rather than a defeat. The Chiefs were up 20-6 when RB Ed Podolak scored on a two-yard run. He set up the score with a 48-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter. Earlier, WR Elmo Wright (left) caught an 11-yard TD pass from QB Mike Livingston and Jan Stenerud kicked a pair of FGs. Livingston left the game in the third quarter, suffering a cut jaw and losing several teeth. He was replaced by Pete Beathard. Cleveland’s late scores came on a 65-yard TD run by rookie RB Greg Pruitt and then QB Brian Sipe connected with TE Milt Morin for a 51-yard scoring pass with two minutes, 40 seconds to play. RB Willie Ellison ran for 108 yards on 20 carries. The Chiefs defense forced four turnovers.
On December 2, 1979, the Chiefs beat the Seattle Seahawks 37-21 in front of 42,160 fans at Arrowhead Stadium. On the road, the Chiefs jumped out to a 24-0 lead at half-time as the offense pounded home three TDs and K Jan Stenerud hit two FGs. QB Steve Fuller threw a 28-yard TD pass to WR J.T. Smith and RB Ted McKnight had touchdown runs of three and five yards. RB Earl Gant had a two-yard run as well. Stenerud finished with three field goals. Defensively, the Chiefs picked off Seattle QB Jim Zorn (right) three times, as Gary Barbaro, Gary Green and Frank Manumaleuga all had picks. DE Mike Bell had a sack.
On December 2, 1984, the Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 16-13 at Arrowhead Stadium. A crowd of 38,494 saw K Nick Lowery hit three FGs in the fourth quarter, including a 42-yarder with less than two minutes to play to win the game. The Chiefs only TD was a 24-yard pass from QB Bill Kenney to WR Carlos Carson. QB John Elway threw a 48-yard scoring pass to WR Steve Watson, but also was picked off by CB Albert Lewis. Carson had 126 yards on seven catches. The Chiefs sacked Elway three times, two by LB Jerry Blanton and the other by DE Art Still.
On December 2, 1990, the Chiefs beat the New England Patriots 37-7 at Foxboro Stadium. From the first series of the game, the Chiefs controlled this contest as QB Steve DeBerg hit WR Stephone Paige (left) on an 86-yard TD pass. That helped them jump out to a 23-0 half-time lead. DeBerg had an 11-yard TD pass to WR Robb Thomas and RB Christian Okoye scored on a pair of one-yard runs. K Nick Lowery hit three field goals. Overall, RB Barry Word ran 19 times for 122 yards and Paige caught seven passes for 151 yards. Defensively, Deron Cherry and Jeff Donaldson both had interceptions, while Bill Maas and Neil Smith had two sacks each.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on December 2, 1959 in Mankato, Minnesota was OL Todd Thomas. He was selected in the fifth-round of the 1981 NFL Draft out of the University of North Dakota. Thomas played one season with the Chiefs, appearing in 15 games during that rookie season.
Born on December 2, 1969 in Atlanta was LB Lew Bush. He joined the Chiefs in 2000 as a free agent after playing seven seasons with the Chargers. Bush played three seasons (2000-02) with the Chiefs, appearing in 37 games, with 24 starts. He had one interception and recovered a fumble.