What We've Needed Since Last Season Ended, Vol. I

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In 2007, the Kansas City Chiefs were fortunate enough to have two of the best RBs of the past five years on their team at the same time.  Larry Johnson was then the stud back, and received virtually all carries for the team, before having his ankle broken and going on IR in Week 8.  Priest Holmes finally recovered from his two-year injury recovery to take over, and was the feature back for an entire game or two before getting sidelined with injury.  One season, two greats, down with injury.

Here’s the kicker, however: the best single-game yardage performance by an RB that year was by neither of them.  None other than the now-out-of-football Kolby Smith, a fifth-rounder rookie, rushed for 150 yards against the Oakland Raiders.  He juked, broke tackles, and scored a touchdown on a15-yard run by extending the ball as far as his arms allowed as a linebacker was bringing him down.  It was a fantastic performance by a guy who’s not in the league anymore.

Running backs are talented if they have amazing speed, size, athleticism, vision, etc…  But one of the most indispensable characteristics is desire.

Jackie Battle ran with desire on Sunday, something this team has needed from a “big back” since 2006.  It’s been several long years since we’ve had a bigger guy slam the hole, juke a move, then put a defender on his ass like Battle did a few times yesterday.  It’s such a welcome departure from Larry Johnson’s pussyfooting of 2008 and ’09, Javarris Williams’ incompetence, and Thomas Jones’ steady complacency.  There is an energy and a burst to Battle’s play right now that those big backs of the past lacked since LJ’s brilliant explosion during 2005 and ’06.

This is great news for any Chiefs fan who’s closely watched the roster for years, as Jackie Battle has always hovered just above the roster threshold, always on the verge of getting cut or released when something better comes along.  Between the two coaches he’s played for (Herm Edwards and Todd Haley), he’s received nothing but garbage time touches and special teams play, and every year Chiefs fans are convinced the team will move on.  But Battle gets re-signed for a year and has been the team’s preseason MVP three years running.  He looks strong and hungry in the preseason, and this past week was his first opportunity to translate that to an actual game.  Kudos hardcore to Haley and crew for giving him a chance.

The concern is, however, that this might not recur another time this season.  There were a couple breakout players for the Chiefs against the Colts, a couple of which should bode for very positive things going forward.  But if I had to predict the rest of the season for Battle (I know…), I’d say this was more a flash-in-the-pan type performance.  Like Kolby Smith, who similarly showed very well against the Raiders but was subsequently a non-factor for the rest of 2007, Battle is someone a decent-enough game plan can shut down.  The Colts have a phenomenally bad defense for stopping the run, and I imagine that even our next opponent, the Raiders in Week 7, will fence in Battle relatively easily.

But we’ve seen what  happens for three years now when you doubt Jackie Battle.  We’ve also seen what happens when you give him a chance.

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