The Kansas City Chiefs as a team have 192 rushing yards through three games. Through three games last year, Larry Johnson himself had 295 yards rushing. As a team through three games in 2006, the Chiefs had 383 yards rushing. The Chiefs are obviously faltering, but why?
Poor offensive line play, the lack of a true fullback and an unproductive passing game are the culprits.
The Chiefs have allowed their opponent's defense to stop their running game behind the line of scrimmage a total of twelve times this season for negative 24 yards. More than half of those negative stops were by the Vikings' defense. The times the Chiefs make it past the line of scrimmage aren't much help either. We're averaging 2.7 yards a rush. Plain and simple, the offensive line is allowing defensive players behind the line of scrimmage too much. As bigbearomaha put it in the comment section of the game recap, our pass blocking is alright. Our run blocking is atrocious.
While at times the offensive line can give our QB the time to pass, they are unable to create any holes for any of our running backs. The combination of Larry Johnson's slow, patient running style (especially behind the line of scrimmage) and our offensive line is killing the Chiefs' offense. The days of LJ running a slow sweep and waiting for the hole to develop are over. Forget about them. This offensive line doesn't have the talent to pull those plays off. They are unable to contain an opponent's defense long enough for plays to develop.
The Chiefs' are a Herman Edwards, smash mouth team. From the power running attack we're supposed to have to our hit- 'em-the-mouth defensive style, the Chiefs scream slow, conservative, wear you down football. Why we don't have a true fullback is beyond me. Going into this season, we knew teams would stack the box as the Vikings did yesterday. But we refused to replace FB Tony Richardson in 2006 when he left for the Vikings. Since T-Rich's departure, the Chiefs have unsuccessfully tried a carousel of full backs, h-backs as well as simply leaving LJ to fend for himself in the backfield. Nothing has worked.
It seems quite natural that if you're going to emphasize the running game, you would have a full back to go along with that emphasis. But the Chiefs do not. And it is hurting them.
Up until the second half of yesterday's game, opponents had no reason to venture away from making Larry Johnson beat them. The vertical passing attack simply wasn't there. Teams could afford to line up nearly their entire defense on the line of scrimmage. Hopefully that will change after yesterday but still bet that opponents will put as many guys as possible on the line first and make us test them with our passing game.
I can't say I have a lot of hope for the Chiefs' running game this year. Beyond overhauling the offensive line and signing a solid fullback (which isn't going to happen this year), we better hope that the passing game develops into a legitimate threat. Otherwise, Larry Johnson is going to be spiking the ball in frustration a lot more this year.