Without Johnson, the visiting Chiefs try to turn around a struggling offense when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are looking to rebound from another woeful defensive effort.
Following a 37-7 loss to San Diego on Oct. 25, Johnson questioned first-year coach Todd Haley’s credentials on his Twitter page and posted a gay slur. He used a similar slur the next day to reporters.
During the bye week, the Chiefs suspended the running back for two games, but reduced the penalty Monday over fears they would lose in arbitration.
“He learned from it and hopefully other people learned from it,” Johnson’s agent Peter Schaeffer said. “My hope is that people learn that something positive can come out of this and that there are words that should not be used because they demean people.”
Even with Johnson, Kansas City (1-6) has been one of the NFL’s worst offensive teams this season, ranking 30th with 251.6 yards per game and 27th with 15.0 points a contest.
The Chiefs are 21st in the league in rushing with 101.3 yards per game as Johnson has gained a career-low 2.7 per carry. Jamaal Charles(notes), averaging 5.0 yards in limited action, could make his fourth career start.
“Our running game is something we know we have to have to have a chance to win,” Haley said. “We’re not going to beat people throwing it 50-60 times a game right now. Our running game is one of those areas that has to improve, specifically eliminating minus-yardage runs. So that’s where our focus has been, and that’s where it will continue to be.”
Kansas City will face a Jacksonville team that ranks near the bottom in most major defensive categories. The Jaguars were burned for a franchise-worst 305 rushing yards in last week’s 30-13 loss at Tennessee.
The Titans’ Chris Johnson ran for a team-record 228 yards and had a pair of long touchdown runs that put the game away.
The Jaguars (3-4) managed to stay somewhat competitive because of Maurice Jones-Drew(notes), who ran for a career-high 177 yards and two TDs on just eight carries. David Garrard(notes) wasn’t nearly as good, getting sacked three times, intercepted twice and losing a fumble while throwing for just 139 yards.
“I don’t have an answer, but we’ve got to find a way to fix it,” Jones-Drew said. “It’s not a mentality issue. Everything can be fixed. It’s what you want to do to fix it. It’s the little things.”
That prompted coach Jack Del Rio to hold a rare full-pads practice Wednesday. He initially considered live tackling drills but backed off because of injury concerns.
Kansas City has won three of its last 29 games and dropped 13 of 15 away from home. The Chiefs earned a rare road victory Oct. 18 over Washington but lost their other two road games by a combined 72-38, gaining less than 200 yards in each loss.
The Chiefs are making their first trip to Jacksonville since a 22-16 defeat Oct. 17, 2004. The Jaguars lead the all-time series 5-2 and took the most recent meeting 17-7 at Arrowhead Stadium on Oct. 7, 2007.
Jones-Drew rushed for a 52-yard touchdown and Garrard threw for another TD in that win, while Johnson was held to 12 yards on nine carries.