The Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) travel to sunny California Sunday to finish off the regular season against the San Diego Chargers (8-7). With the Chiefs locked into the 5th seed in the AFC playoff picture, there is a good chance many of the Kansas City regulars will see limited to no action in this game, including Jamaal Charles. The spotlight will shine brightly on his talented back up, Knile Davis.
If Charles plays, it will be sparingly. He needs just 20 yards form scrimmage and a touchdown to become just the 10th player to ever have over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns in the same season. This isn’t really a reason to play him but the Chiefs may give him some touches early in the contest.
When Charles comes out of the game, Davis will take over as the running back. Much has been made this week of Davis’ fumbling issues in college but his fumble last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts was just the second time this season he has put the ball on the ground, and the first fumble in which the Chiefs didn’t recover.
At Arkansas as a collegiate, Davis fumbled on 3.4% of his touches, and 6.4% in his final season with the Razorbacks. With the Chiefs this season, Davis has 43 carries, 9 receptions, and 9 kick off returns for a total of 61 touches. With 2 fumbles, that give’s him a fumble rate of 3.3%, which is on the high side. Charles has 4 fumbles in 329 touches, which is a fumble rate of 1.2%.
There really isn’t any reason to panic or claim Davis a bust. Sunday’s fumble was his only one in the running game, in 43 touches. His collegiate history shows an inclination to put the ball on the turf but one lost fumble is no reason to sour on Davis just yet.
There is a good chance Davis will see 20 or more touches this week against San Diego. If he fumbles a couple of times then you can all lay into the man, but let’s see if last week’s gaff was a fluke or a major concern.
Davis has shown us many more positives than negatives. His pass catching skills are slightly better than maybe advertised, though his still has some work to do in that area. As a kick returner, he has been phenomenal, averaging 32.9 yards per return with a touchdown in 9 chances.
As a runner, Davis looks like he has the making of a star. He is fast, quick, and strong running with the football. He does tend to run with his head down a little bit, and because of that, he misses some holes. Still, he displays the overall skills that could develop into a top notch back in the NFL. If he doesn’t fumble the football, that is.
It will be interesting to see how he does when he has to shoulder more of the load for most of a game. For as nimble and powerful he is, his per carry average isn’t very high at 3.7 yards a carry. Again, that comes from him plowing in the thick of things with his head down.
On kick offs, when he is running hard with his head up, he is tough to bring down. He has displayed moves that men his size shouldn’t be able to make.
The Chiefs need him to show that same aggressive running style when he rushes the ball that he displays on kick off returns. If Davis can become the running back the Chiefs hope, maybe it will help prolong Charles’ career by splitting his carries somewhat with Davis.
The Chargers should get a steady diet of number 34 Sunday. Chiefs fans should keep their attention focused on Davis as this will be his game in the spotlight.(NOTE: The Chiefs still haven’t said definitively that the starters are going to sit. Obviously, this was written under the premise that the stars should, and would, sit out most, if not all, of this game.)