Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs Bye Week Positional Report Card: The Running Backs


The Kansas City Chiefs are the only 9-0 football team in the NFL, and they feature one of the most dangerous, explosive backs in NFL history in Jamaal Charles.

While the Chiefs rank 10th in the league in total rushing yards with 1071 yards, they rank 14th in the league in yards per game at 119. Kansas City also ranks 14th in the league in yards per attempt at 4.2, and 14th in rushing touchdowns with 7. Statistically speaking, the Chiefs running game is firmly lodged in as a middle of the pack for ground attacks.

Yet, Charles is one of the top backs in the league. He ranks 5th in the league in yards (725), 5th in rushing touchdowns (6th), 7th in yards per game (80.6), 2nd in attempts (170), and 1st in first downs (41).

Charles has also added 47 catches for 389 yards and 2 touchdowns to his 2013 statistical line. He is as good as just about anyone in the NFL at his position.

So why are the Chiefs so mediocre when it comes to the running game?

One of the reasons is depth. After Charles, quarterback Alex Smith is the next leading rusher, by far, with 265 yards. Everyone else, including wide receivers, back up quarterbacks, and other running backs have combined for 81 yards on the ground. Coach Andy Reid has not given Charles must rest so far this season as Knile Davis only has 17 carries.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Knile Davis (34) . Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In the post-bye portion of the season, Davis needs to see more action; somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-6 carries a came. This would be enough to give Charles some plays off, and maybe keep him fresher throughout ball games.

Another reason the Chiefs overall numbers don’t look that impressive is a lack of explosiveness. Kansas City only has two runs aver 20 yards, one for 24 yards by Charles, and the other for 23 yards by Smith. Only 3 teams have a shorter longest run.

Charles came into the season sporting the highest average per rushing attempt by a pure running back in the history of the game, which was an incredible 5.8 yards.

This season, Charles doesn’t even have a game in which he averaged 5.8 yards per carry. In fact, he has only averaged over 5 yards per attempt in one game this season (5.3 against Buffalo).

In his career, Charles has 17 games in which he gained 100 yards, including 3 over 200 yards. This season, he has one game over the century mark (108 against Tennessee). He has four runs in his career over 80 yards, and another for 76, yet in 2013, he can’t even break one for 25 yards.

Another reason the running game hasn’t excelled is because of the game planning and execution. In several of the games, the Chiefs didn’t really run the ball until the 4th quarter. Kansas City’s last game was a perfect example. Charles received more than half his carries and half his rushing yards in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs are producing when the game is on the line and they are trying to run out the clock, but they are producing well during the course of the game as a whole.

Charles has been nicked up all season, going all the way back to preseason and training camp. This may be part of the reason he hasn’t been as explosive so far this season, and why he needs to be getting a few more plays off during the course of a game.

Kansas City’s rushing offense has been good, when they have utilized it. If they can rest Charles, and run the ball consistently all game, and get some big gainers (loosen up the defense with some long passes???), then the Chiefs rushing attack should be fine.


JAMAAL CHARLES: Despite his lack of big plays he has been terrific running and receiving. He is the best all purpose back in the league. Add some big, breakaway runs, and he is the top back in the NFL. His average per attempt brings his grade down just a little but he is terrific. A-

KNILE DAVIS: Davis looks like he can be a productive back in this league. He hasn’t fumbled yet in his limited chances (17 carries, 3 receptions), which was an issue in college. He should get more carries as the season progresses. C

ALEX SMITH: One of the biggest surprises of the season is how mobile Smith has been. Most of his yards have come on scrambles but he has made the most of them. This grade is for his running game only. B+

ANTHONY SHERMAN: Anthony Sherman has been a pleasant surprise. He is a good blocker and have been very effective as an outlet receiver. He has only carried the one time, but it was for a first down. His blocking and pass receiving skills have been a positive. B

OVERALL GRADE FOR THE RUNNING GAME: Lack of explosiveness, depth, and uneven usage have made this team statistically average but the parts have been better than the sum so far. B-

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