Ed. Note: Every evening from now until July 26 – the day every Chiefs player is expected to report for training camp – we will countdown and discuss some of the more important questions for the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs.
Yes, I’m aware of Ray Rice, Arian Foster, and Marshawn Lynch, but what Charles did last season was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen on a football field. A year removed from tearing his ACL, Charles rushed for 1,509 yards (4th in NFL), caught 236 yards worth of passes, had 1,745 yards from scrimmage (5th in the NFL) and scored six total touchdowns for the league’s worst offense. He did all of this with exactly zero help from the passing game and with Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn commanding the offense.
Every defense who had to play the Chiefs had only one goal: Stop Jamaal Charles. And they couldn’t.
We know Charles is good, even if you don’t agree with my ranking of him as the second best back in football. The question now is if the hiring of new head coach Andy Reid will prevent him from being even better. Reid is known for his passing offenses and fans have been known to be frustrated over running backs not getting the ball enough in his system.
So is Reid’s hiring a bad thing for Charles?
Much has been made about how little Reid uses running backs in terms of touches but the reality is Reid uses his running backs quite a bit but in more versatile ways. In fact there is a chance Charles will see his touches increase as compared to his annual average.
Average Touches Per Season
Brian Westbrook (2004-2008): 288 (217 rushing, 71 receiving)
LeSean McCoy (2009-2012): 287 (227 rushing, 60 receiving)
Jamaal Charles (2009-2010, 2012): 275 (235 rushing, 40 receiving)
(Note: Those numbers include McCoy‘s injury shortened season last year as well as Westbrooks injury issues. Charles ACL year of 2011 was eliminated from his total.)
The obvious difference he is Charles is going to see more time catching passes out of the backfield than what he is used to seeing. This is no surprise to anyone who follows Reid’s offense. But unlike McCoy and Westbrook, Charles is a significantly better back on the edges. If Reid can design an offense that allows Charles to get to the edge without the risk of getting hit then it could not only allow Charles to become more explosive but also stay healthier.
Additionally, one could also expect Charles to have more consistency in regards to his touches number. Last season Charles’ touches were all over the place. In week two he had just nine touches against Buffalo and then in week three he was handed the ball 33 times and thrown to an additional six times for 39 total touches. One week he has nine touches, the next he has 39.
Again, his touches were all over the place. Charles should have been the foundation of the offense but instead he was used as if he was some special cheat code that could only be activated five times a season.
Things for the most part should be balanced under Reid. Look at the consistency of touches McCoy was getting last season.
Note McCoy missed four weeks due to an injury, which left him 66 touches behind Charles. Had McCoy not been injured he would have surpassed Charles in total touches assuming he were to stay on his 21 touches per game pace. McCoy also saw fewer touches in week 17 as the Eagles were far out of playoff contention.
Charles touches are not likely to decrease much, if at all, with Reid controlling the offense. How Charles ends up with the ball is going to change but it will still end with Charles having the ball in his hands with the opportunity to make plays.
Also, look at how consistent the touches were for McCoy. For most of the season he was hovering around 20 touches per game. For the most part this is what Chiefs fans should be looking for from Charles. Yes, there will be games where they are going to lean on him more and games where we won’t need him as much, but consistent touches is what we should want most of all. Reid has a history of doing just that with his best backs.
What will this mean for Charles production then?
Part of it is going to depend on how much the passing game improves. Kansas City had the worst ranked passing offense in football last season no thanks to the terrible quarterback play. But the Chiefs passing attack was also limited because, outside of Dwayne Bowe, there was virtually no one else to throw to. Tony Moeaki, the team’s second best receiving option, was forced to stay in and help pass block on a lot of occasions which left few other options available for KC quarterbacks to throw to.
As helpful as the Alex Smith acquisition is, what will be more telling is if another receiving threat emerges outside of Bowe. Donnie Avery was signed as a free agent and Travis Kelce was drafted in the third round, but not much else was done to improve the receiving corps.
As a result, Charles greatest production boost may come in the passing game. McCoy was targeted for passes 63 times in 12 games or a little more than five times per game while Charles was only targeted for a pass 43 times in 16 games (2.7 per game). The potential three extra passes Charles should see per game will be the key to Charles production.
Keep in mind, these won’t be pass plays designed by Brian Daboll but by Reid, who is a master of the passing offense. Charles already has a career 8.4 yards per catch average to his credit. In 2010 when Charles played in Todd Haley’s passing system he averaged 10.4 yards per catch. One would think that with Reid designing the plays, Smith running the plays, and Charles explosive abilities that Charles could dominate in the passing game.
Again, a lot of things will depend on another receiving threat developing next to Dwayne Bowe, but Reid’s scheme should only mean good things for Charles 2013 season.