Do the Chiefs Have Anyone to Carry the Load in LJ's Absence?

Left End Left Tackle Left Guard Up the Middle Right Guard Right Tackle Right End
Plays: 32 Plays: 11 Plays: 10 Plays: 88 Plays: 9 Plays: 24 Plays: 27
NFL Rank: 3 NFL Rank: 27 NFL Rank: 23 NFL Rank: 1 NFL Rank: 25 NFL Rank: 13 NFL Rank: 6
Avg Gain: 4.34 Avg Gain: 3.91 Avg Gain: 2.10 Avg Gain: 3.30 Avg Gain: 3.00 Avg Gain: 2.50 Avg Gain: 4.74
NFL Rank: 24 NFL Rank: 14 NFL Rank: 29 NFL Rank: 25 NFL Rank: 24 NFL Rank: 30 NFL Rank: 15

Think that Todd Haley and the Kansas City Chiefs are going to have to change their style of play if Larry Johnson is done for the season?  

This is a graph showing where and how often the Chiefs run the ball  They run the ball up the middle more than any other NFL team.

Jamaal Charles and Dantrell Savage are shiftier backs not asked to carry the load between the tackles on a consistent basis.  Kolby Smith is rehabbing a knee injury that's kept him out for the next 12 months so to expect him to step right in November 8th against the Jacksonville Jaguars and pound the ball 20+ times between the tackles is optimistic, at best.

If/when LJ is not on the team anymore, who will carry the load for the Chiefs?

Barring a free agent signing, it will be these three men: Jamaal Charles, Kolby Smith and Dantrell Savage.

The common denominator here?  Lack of experience.  I'm not saying these players can't do the job.  Maybe they can.  But there isn't much to go on as we try to predict how the Chiefs running game might play out.

After the jump, we take a look at what these players have done when asked to shoulder a heavier load in the past.


Charles has taken more than ten carries in a game on one occasion when he ran for 106 yards on 18 carries last season.  He averages 5.2 yards per carry.

Smith has taken more than ten carries in a game on eight occasions.  In just his third appearance in the NFL, he carried the ball 31 times for 150 yards in 2007.  He followed that up with a 21 carry performance.  He did a decent job in the second half of the 2007 season filling in for an injured Larry Johnson.

Savage has taken more than ten carries in a game on one occasion.  Last season, he carried the ball 12 times for 44 yards against the Chargers.


Three career touchdowns by these three.  Smith had two in 2007 and one in 2008.

The Chiefs obviously have had major problems getting the ball into the end zone via the rush this season.

Todd Haley's take

Here's what Chiefs coach Haley had to say when asked who could take 16-20 carries a game:

"I’ve said from the start that running back is a position of strength of us. Kolby Smith has had a tough go here. This is coming up on 12 months for him. I like the guy and I really do. I like the way he works; I like his attitude; I like his character. From what I can tell, he comes from good blood lines. His cousin is Mike Brown, one of my favorite players. I like a lot about Kolby and I hope it works out for him because I think he would be a big asset for us.

"I think Jamaal has shown signs that he is starting to get it. You average 8.3 per carry in limited carries, he’s doing things. He’s showing up to us in the meeting room and out on the practice field. I’m excited right from the start how this running position is going to start out."

Who will get the carries?

My best guess is that Kolby Smith will eventually be the featured back and he'll be spelled by Charles and Savage.  Past history has indicated that Smith has had success at times carrying the full load.  Charles and Savage have never really been given that opportunity (maybe that's for good reason....we just don't know).

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