[Kansas City.com] Dick Vermeil and Al Saunders were once strong believers in having one and only one featured back if the Chiefs offense was to thrive.
They changed their thinking because Larry Johnson forced them to.
Vermeil was vague about specific plans to use Holmes and Johnson in Sunday night’s game at Oakland and beyond. The Chiefs may or may not continue the pattern of two series for Holmes, one series for Johnson they used in Sunday’s 27-7 season-opening win over the Jets.
But it’s clear Johnson will play.
“It will help keep Priest fresher and stronger for a longer time,” Vermeil said. “It will allow Larry to continue to grow and make plays.”
“We’ll have a plan each week. Everybody knows it’s not ideal for either guy, but they were both pretty darn fresh late in the game. It was impressive.”
The Chiefs ran for 198 yards against the Jets. Their healthy 5.8-yards-per-carry average was best in the NFL.
It marked the first time a healthy Holmes shared the stage since he, Vermeil and Saunders joined the Chiefs in 2001. The Chiefs would use Johnson or another back only when Holmes needed a rest or the Chiefs had a comfortable lead.
Those days appear over. Johnson’s development has as much to do with that as anything.
“When you go to running back by committee, you can run into problems if you have special plays for one guy and special plays for another guy,” said Saunders, the offensive coordinator. “Then you have to manufacture a game plan for each guy. That makes things very, very tough.”
“Because of Larry’s advancement in the system, we don’t have to limit what we can do with him anymore. His pass protection has improved greatly, his pass receiving has improved greatly. If he wasn’t able to do those things, he couldn’t play much. As long as he continues to play like he did, there’s no problem.”