Former Chiefs first round pick Derrick Johnson has been struggling to get on the field since being demoted on the depth chart earlier this season. The topic has been a hot topic with fans and media alike, but what about the man himself? The Star’s Kent Babb caught up with the linebacker to talk about his lack of playing time.
He said he’ll keep waiting and practicing the way he knows how. And instead of asking coach Todd Haley about being benched and what Johnson might do to work his way back into the starting lineup, he said he prefers to explain himself with his play, limited as it has been.
“I really believe that the field speaks for itself,” Johnson, a former first-round pick, said in his calm, mild-mannered way. “I don’t get a lot of chances, don’t get me wrong, but the field speaks for itself. I can’t worry about that. The season is too long, and this game is too hard to be complaining and trying to talk about — I don’t think talking is going to do anything. All the coaches have great intentions. At the same time, do I want to play? Yeah, I want to play more.”
While Johnson has kept quiet, with injuries overtaking him and the distance growing between his outstanding performances — four tackles, an interception and a sack in the Chiefs’ first and second games — veteran Demorrio Williams has taken and kept Johnson’s starting job. A player with less speed and fewer athletic gifts is taking Johnson’s playing time, and Johnson said Wednesday that he doesn’t let that bother him.
“I can’t worry about that,” he said.
Instead, Johnson keeps waiting. And Williams keeps starting. And the Chiefs’ defense keeps missing one of its most promising but unreliable pieces.
Todd Haley knows his team better than any of us and I realize that, but it still boggles my mind that DJ hasn’t played more. There are certain guys that I have been harping on — like Jamaal Charles — that haven’t proven enough with their opportunities they deserve more time snaps. The thing with Johnson is that when he has gotten onto the field he has looked much better than Demorrio Williams.
Maybe if I saw practice every day it would make more sense to me, but judging only by game film it doesn’t make sense why it has been so hard for the soon-to-be ex-Chief to get more playing time.
One of the things Todd Haley has been mentioning a lot is how he breaks every season into quarters. So by his logic the Kansas City Chiefs were 0-4 in the first quarter, but are now 0-0. With that in mind, Bob Gretz handed out first quarter awards this morning.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER – TE Sean Ryan. OK, the pickings here are pretty slim, but after four games Ryan is leading the team in catches with 11 and he’s got two touchdown passes. He’s no Tony Gonzalez, but he’s been a far better receiver than anyone thought since he was signed more as a blocker than a catcher. It will be interesting to see if he can beat back the presence of recently signed Leonard Pope. Others considered: WR Bobby Wade.
I have had trouble each of the first four weeks handing out game balls and it’s even tougher to determine the best player for the Chiefs in any phase of the game. Ryan is an interesting case because he’s been a nice surprise in the passing game but has had his problems with penalties and consistency blocking. The thing is, who was better? Wade would have been if were in Kansas City from day 1 and maybe Bowe if he played every week.
If the Chiefs pick off the Dallas Cowboys Sunday in Kansas City, it looks like injuries could play a big role. Todd Haley only listed one player — Wallace Gilberry — on the Chiefs injury report, but Cowboys coach Wade Phillips is dealing with three key injuries on his offense.
Starting receiver Roy Williams, starting center Andre Gurode and backup running back Felix Jones didn’t participate. Two other offensive starters – left tackle Flozell Adams (shoulder) and running back Marion Barber (left quadriceps) – fully participated in practice as expected.
Williams, who injured three ribs Sunday at Denver, said he plans to play against the Chiefs and he’d be the one who made the decision.
“It’s painful, but it’s good,” Williams said of his injury. “I’m looking forward to playing in the game. That’s the way I’m approaching this week, is to play. I’ve got to be smart about this thing. If I can go, I’m going to go.”
Phillips wouldn’t rule Jones out for the Kansas City game, but he’s doubtful while still recovering from a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. If Jones is out again, third-string running back Tashard Choice’s work load would increase again.
I wouldn’t expect to see much of Williams. If he couldn’t get himself onto the field for the Cowboys final drive against the Broncos, I can’t imagine he’ll suck it up to play much in Kansas City. Hopefully when he does play the Chiefs secondary is very physical with him.
The Chiefs would catch a huge break if Jones misses another game. He is a game breaker that fits the profile of guys that go off for huge yards against the Kansas City defense — though to be fair a lot of players have fit that profile over the past few years. Again, with Jones out the Chiefs defense could try and muscle the ailing Barber out of the game and just worry about Choice, a much less dangerous option.
If those injuries break right for Clancy Pendergast, he can focus all of his attention on shutting down Jason Witten. With the problems the Chiefs have had with tight ends this season we all know how huge that could be.