Let’s start with yours truly. On July 25, I wrote, “Holmes just wants to soak up the limelight of HBO’s cameras in River Falls next month.” Clearly I couldn’t have written a more inaccurate statement.
Who else? Well, you can pick on any number of writers who cover the Chiefs, but that’s beside the point.
How about Holmes himself?
While he’d never admit it such a thing publicly, understand this: Priest Holmes was out of football for over two years. After suffering a nasty hit that forced him to see an orthopedic spine specialist, there had to be at least a little doubt in the back of his mind – a voice, saying, “Can I do it? Can I come back and take another hit? Will I shy away, or will I charge into battle with the same disregard for my own health?”
Now, here’s the next question:
How many people disrespected Holmes?
Again, we can start with yours truly. I mocked Holmes’ comeback attempt during training camp, referring to him as a member of “Team Priest” while he milled around on the sidelines at River Falls with other injured team members, during his stay on the physically unable to perform list.
How about the Denver Broncos?
For a team that has not blitzed all that much this season, the Broncos sent defenders hurtling after Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle on Sunday. They clearly had little regard for Holmes’ ability to block, perhaps thinking his time away from the gridiron might have turned him into a player who would shy away from contact, a man who would approach pass protection with trepidation.
But who could blame them? While in his prime, Holmes was arguably a terrific, near-legendary pass blocker - who could forget the way he stoned a linebacker in 2003 against the Buffalo Bills, allowing Trent Green to complete a 40-yard touchdown pass to Dante Hall? But things often change as a player ages. Future Hall of Fame guard Will Shields declined in 2006. Why not Holmes in 2007?
Yes, the Broncos decided to test Priest Holmes this last Sunday. But as we’ll see, not much has changed since the last time #31 was stopping linebackers dead in their tracks.
HOLMES VS CHAMP BAILEY
This is the first time the Chiefs ask Holmes to pass block. The Broncos send linebacker Ian Gold and Bailey off the weakside. Holmes quickly identifies his assignment, steps in front of Bailey and walls him off from Damon Huard, who completes a 17-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe. Kris Wilson’s weak block allows Gold to hit Huard – if only everyone was as proficient as Priest.
HOLMES VS HAMZA ABDULLAH
It’s time for the Chiefs to take a shot at the endzone. The Broncos blitz their safety, Abdullah, off the left side - either that or he bit on play action. Either way, he comes running right at Huard, but runs into Holmes, who muscles him well out of harm’s way. He never sniffs the quarterback, who throws incomplete to Tony Gonzalez.
HOLMES VS DJ WILLIAMS
Oops! The rust shows on this play. The Broncos send Gold and Williams up the middle. Holmes starts to his left, almost as if he’s running a pass pattern, and then attempts to hightail it back to the middle to block Williams. He dives in a valiant effort to stop the linebacker, but instead allows Huard to take a shot as he desperately throws over the middle to Gonzalez for an incompletion.
HOLMES VS DJ WILLIAMS II
Again, Denver sends Gold and Williams screaming up the middle. This time, Priest is waiting. With a man who outweighs him by 30 pounds running right at him, Holmes shows no fear – he cuts Williams down at the knees like a California Redwood. Even better, he gets in the way of defensive end Tim Crowder. Huard darts a pass to Dwayne Bowe for a first down.
We realize the sample size here is small, but for a player starting his first game in over two years, Holmes was remarkably prolific in pass protection. It’s not just one-on-one matchups, either – Priest does the little things well, like chipping a defensive end before running out for a pass route.
Watching Larry Johnson attempt to pass block over the previous eight weeks, it’s like night and day. Considering how well Kolby Smith also blocked Sunday, you’d think Johnson could stand to learn a few things from Holmes. Hopefully, he was watching.