No one following the Chiefs would have ever confused Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles on or off the field. Where Johnson uses his power to try and plow over people, Charles has a special kind of make-you-miss speed. Off the field LJ never could get it together and Charles has been one of the most quiet Cheifs players. One of the biggest differences, as Bob Gretz writes, is the ability to help in the passing game.
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.
It’s been a treat watching Charles run (and catch) the ball over the past few weeks since Larry Johnson was released and outside of his fumble last week I have very little to complain.
Still, no one knows if he’s the answer for Kansas City at running back. But what was clear long before Charles got his shot, LJ was never a part of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley’s long term plan.
Last week the Chiefs secondary was exposed time and again by Philip Rivers and the Chargers. But as Kent Babb notes in today’s Kansas City Star, this isn’t a new problem.
The Chiefs’ two previous opponents, Oakland and Pittsburgh, also were successful at long gains, but Kansas City survived those games by holding the Raiders and Steelers to intermediate yardage and limiting the huge holes that Haley’s staff has sunk so much time into repairing.
On Sunday, though, San Diego ran 63 offensive plays, and 10 went for gains of at least 15 yards. Three of those went for at least 20, including a 53-yard pass that Philip Rivers telegraphed to Malcom Floyd. That was the kill shot in a three-play drive that made it look easy to score.
Combined with Kansas City’s own mistakes — it committed four turnovers and looked hapless as San Diego added to what became a huge lead — the Chiefs didn’t seem to have a chance.
“On each and every one of those,” Haley said, “it was pretty clear to me in watching the tape that they were preventable with better technique, better understanding of what was going on.”
The other thing that has held back the Chiefs this season is an overall lack of speed on defense. Kansas City is one of the NFL’s slowest teams, and the team understands that the Chiefs aren’t likely to return to relevance until that fact is addressed. The team could pursue a free-agent safety during the offseason or wait and try its hand at one of the elite safeties, Tennessee’s Eric Berry or Southern California’s Taylor Mays, in April’s draft.
Paging Dr. Berry. Paging Dr. Berry.
I love the NFL Draft, absolutely love it and will be the first person to admit that it gets awfully dangerous to expect a rookie on either side of the ball to provide a quick fix. But Berry could step on the field next week and start for teams much better off in the secondary than the Chiefs.
In the span of five days, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels got himself in hot water for remarks he made on the football field. First for an exchange with San Diego’s Shaun Phillips and then being caught by NFL Network cameras using not-for-broadcast language on the sidelines. McDaniels felt the need to apologize, yesterday. Sort of.
“I wasn’t out there trash-talking their players, going through their drills. This guy has been doing this since I’ve been in the league and, because they won, he takes the liberty of telling his side of the story. I didn’t swear at him or threaten him. What I actually said was, ‘I’ve heard the same thing from you for four or five years now, and when I was in New England, we owned you.’”
The Broncos coach added, “Now, I’ll apologize for that but it was nothing like [Phillips] portrayed.”
During that NFL Network Thanksgiving national telecast, McDaniels was seen and heard cussing at his team in the bench area in what turned out to be an in-game taped segment.
“I’m not going to apologize for coaching the game but I apologize that people had to hear that,” McDaniels said.
“These two things happened four days apart and people have asked me about it. I’m hearing that I’m being called a renegade coach and that I’m always trying to stir things up and [media] are asking questions based on erroneous information. I even read where [Steelers safety] Ryan Clark wanted the commissioner to do something about a coach taunting players. I have a lot of respect for Ryan Clark and that bothers me.
“I’m not trying to exacerbate the situation by talking about it but if somebody is going to make a judgment about me, I’d appreciate it if they had all the facts and properly report it.”
Short of stepping in to defend one of your own players, there’s no excuse for a coach to get up in the face of an opposing player. He can give his side so that it’s “properly” reported, but plain and simple there is no defense for what he did. That’s not to excuse Phillips’ actions, but it’s not nearly as rare to see a player popping off before a game to anyone within earshot.
As for the NFL Network stuff…
You’ll never find me lining up to defend McDaniels (or anyone associated with the Broncos for that matter) but the fault in this situation lays solely with the NFL Network. Coach’s curse on the sidelines? Shocking. Not to mention that it was a taped segment. In this case McDaniels has no need to apologize.