Chiefs hope to see big offensive boost after winless preseason

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sure, Larry Johnson had just three meaningless carries and quarterback Damon Huard hardly played at all. And yes, everyone knows head coach Herm Edwards is partial to defense.

But, come on. Two touchdowns in four exhibition games? Four winless exhibition games?

Is this the offense the Kansas City Chiefs will trot out in Sunday's season opener in Houston?

"I don't think they should be worried," said right guard John Welbourn. "You have to remember, we kept everything pretty vanilla. We didn't really do anything. We showed about 10 percent of our arsenal."

Perhaps, but not one aspect of the offense showed any flow or consistency in losses to New Orleans, St. Louis, Miami and Cleveland.

Second-year quarterback Brodie Croyle, handed an opportunity to win the job, failed. His three turnovers elevated Huard, a career-long backup who played well in eight starts last year in place of departed Trent Green.

The running game, with Pro Bowler Johnson working out in Arizona during a contract dispute, was terrible. The only big play on offense all summer was a long run by rookie Kolby Smith.

Rookie first-round draft pick Dwayne Bowe made one good catch at wide receiver, but dropped another ball and failed to crack the starting lineup.

The offense scored only two touchdowns, and rookie kicker Justin Medlock struggled so much the Chiefs had six kicking prospects in camp on Monday.

Johnson, who has broken the team rushing record each of the past two years, is back now. So is left tackle Damion McIntosh, who practiced on Monday for the first time since injuring his knee on Aug. 1. Backup tight end Jason Dunn, a terrific blocker who had been held out with an injury, also returned Monday.

For the record, Monday was the first time the Chiefs had all 11 offensive starters on the field together since minicamp.

"It's nice to have your running back again," said Welbourn, who has moved from tackle to guard, his more natural position. "I'm sure we'll take a little bit of time, but we're not worried. Preseason is a poor indicator. How many times have you seen a team go 4-0 in the preseason and then go 5-11? I don't put much stock in the preseason."

A winless preseason and dismal offensive stats are not a source of confidence, however.

"I don't see us struggling," said left guard Brian Waters. "But, again, we don't know what we're going to do. That's the good thing about it: We've yet to see this whole football team run our offense with all our players in there. That's something we can feel positive about."

The tempo and mind-set now that the regular season is about to begin is also different.

"All our practices during training camp were for different teams. We would run different situations, then add stuff for teams we went against during the preseason," Waters said. "Now we can put all our attention and all our focus on just one team."

An early worry is Johnson's progress. After a 25-day holdout, nobody expects the man who carried an NFL record 416 times a year ago to be at his peak at Houston.

Backup Michael Bennett, recovered from the bumps and bruises that slowed him last year, will probably carry much of the load early.

"Larry is going to be on a little bit of a leash early," said Edwards. "He has to get his legs underneath him. Michael's healthy, which is good. We feel very comfortable with the runners we have now. It's not all on L.J., which is good."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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