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Does Larry Johnson = Earl Campbell?


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Is Herman Edwards turning Kansas City’s Larry Johnson into a modern day Earl Campbell? That should be the big question on everyone’s mind. And is it a good thing? Jamal Anderson set a record for most carries in ’98 with 410. Besides the “Dirty Bird”, what else is Anderson known for? It was the beginning of the end for Anderson. Against Jacksonville Johnson will most likely break this record. How will 400 plus carries affect Johnson?

With only eight wins to show it I’m all for Edwards coming up with a different plan. Anything that doesn’t include “using up” a unique talent is fine by me.

“I’m getting tired of this,” said Johnson. “It’s tough running against a brick wall until you break it open, you know…There are other ways of doing different things.”

With strength, speed, power and agility Campbell exceeded the norm. His best year was in 1980 where he had four consecutive 200 yard games despite playing against stacked defenses and being gang-tackled with each carry. Running at 244 pounds with 4.6 speed he was unstoppable. Campbell averaged 5.2 yards and scored 13 rushing touchdowns that year.

It was Campbell’s finest season, but carrying the ball 373 times (a record in 1980) took its toll. Despite only being in the league for three years Campbell was already starting to decline. He rushed for 1,381 yards in ’81 with 10 touchdowns, but the injuries quickly piled up. Campbell only lasted six seasons.

Campbell punished defenders, but would he have done it differently if he had the chance? I wonder. Would he have spoken out like Johnson asking coach to try other ways?

From 1978 – 1981 Campbell ran for 6,457 yards and 55 touchdowns. From 1982 – 1985 Campbell ran for 2,950 yards and 19 touchdowns.

There’s good reason for the comparisons. From Johnson’s own lips he admits to running into defenders rather than running away. Johnson is big and fast like Campbell and runs with an extreme attitude. And like Campbell Johnson seems to be the Chiefs best shot at winning.

But I see the carries starting to wear on Johnson. Against the Oakland Raiders I could see Johnson slowing down at the end of the run rather than fighting through. The sideline has been looking more attractive lately. I don’t blame him; Johnson is the reason for the Chiefs season, but as great as Johnson is he’s not dumb. He knows his NFL history; he knows what happened to Campbell.

Johnson talks tuff, and says he doesn’t give it much thought, but after reading some of his latest commits he’s asking for an adjustment to the playbook. He’s doesn’t want to end up like an Earl Campbell. Reality is reality and injuries caught up with Campbell in a hurry and they will with Johnson if Edwards doesn’t become more balanced.

Last year the Chiefs had twice the amount of pass plays over 20+ yards with Dick Vermeil. Johnson still had his touchdowns and oodles of yards. Under Edwards Johnson has the yards and touchdowns, but at a greater price and the passing game has taken a serious nose dive.

“When this offense operated the best you have the balance of the run and pass and you have the defense second-guessing what you’re going to do,” said Trent Green. “There has been such an emphasis placed on the run, but I think the passing game complements the running game very well with what we’ve been able to accomplish over these past few seasons.”

When Johnson spoke out I believe he was trying to say I can’t run like this forever, and he’s right.

Bum Phillips was Campbell’s coach at the time and he was a defensive minded guy. He developed the 3-4, but when it came to offense he was a run, run, run type of guy. Even though Campbell didn’t shy away from it, Phillips philosophy wound up costing Campbell. It cut Campbell’s career short.

Speculation? Maybe. I suppose Johnson could be the exception compared to everyone else who’s ran the ball like he has, but do we want to take that chance?

Larry Johnson is special and the one solid thing about the offense. I don’t want that to go away early. The Chiefs have enough to worry about as it is, so keeping Johnson fresh would be the wise thing to do. That’s all I’m asking.

I’m not looking for Johnson to do it all. We’ll save that job for Superman.

Good day, Chief fans!






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