AFC West: Jamaal Charles

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Jamaal Charles, RB, fourth Pro Bowl selection: Charles isn’t having a vintage season. He still needs 21 rushing yards to get to 1,000 and his production as a receiver is far down from where it was last year. But Charles is still gaining 5.1 yards per carry and is tied for second in the league in touchdowns with 14.

Dontari Poe, NT, second Pro Bowl selection: Poe won this spot more by reputation than with his play. He, by a lot of measures, hasn't played as well as he did last season, when he first played in the Pro Bowl. He is the 35th-rated defensive tackle by Pro Football Focus. Still, Poe has a career-high five sacks.

Justin Houston, OLB, third Pro Bowl selection: If the Chiefs had a no-brainer selection, it's Houston. He is the NFL leader in sacks with 18, giving him a very remote chance at the league's single-season record of 22.5. But Houston is a superb all-around defender. He is far and away the highest-rated 3-4 outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus.

Tamba Hali, OLB, fourth Pro Bowl selection: Unless Hali has a big game on Sunday, he will finish the season with his lowest sack total since 2008. He has six, putting him far down the statistical list. But Hali has also been a strong all-around player. He also has played well against the run and is having a solid season in pass coverage.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- I’ve heard the suggestions -- not from anyone inside Kansas City Chiefs headquarters, it should be noted -- that we are seeing the beginning of the career decline for running back Jamaal Charles.

Charles
The theory goes that the repeated injuries he’s fought through this season are an indication his body is breaking down after a few seasons with a heavy workload. A decline in skills is sure to follow.

Charles has gone through more than his share of injuries this season, enough to make you wonder whether we are seeing the beginning of the end. From foot problems in August and September, to current knee and ankle issues, to the strange situation in October when he described having several concussion symptoms without having a concussion, it’s been a weird season for him.

But Charles hasn’t reached the point where his skills are declining. You can’t possibly have watched Charles run in recent games and come to that conclusion.

By the numbers, Charles is more effective when he’s getting the ball this season than he was in a relatively healthy 2013 season. Charles averages 5.2 yards per carry, compared to 5.0 last season. He scores a rushing touchdown every 20.4 carries, as opposed to every 21.6 carries last season. He is nowhere near as dynamic a receiver as he was last season, but that speaks to larger problems with the passing game more than it does Charles’ shortcomings.

The situation bears watching. When a back loses his skills, it doesn’t happen over a period of years, but almost overnight.
Charles turns 28 next week. That is young by many standards, but not for a running back who has touched the ball more than 1,500 times during a seven-year NFL career.

So it’s going to happen and sneak up on us when it does. But it hasn’t happened yet.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Running back Jamaal Charles and outside linebacker Tamba Hali will be key players for the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s crucial game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Monday both players were in relatively good shape with regard to their injuries.

Charles has soreness in his knee and a sprained ankle. Hali has been dealing with swelling in his knee for a large part of the season.

“Jamaal came in today and did his work," Reid said. “[Chiefs trainers] did some stuff with him after the game that he was able to take home with him to keep the swelling down in his knee and ankle, and he felt pretty good today."

Charles expressed frustration after Sunday’s 31-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders about his nagging injuries and his inability to stay healthy for much of the season.

Hali missed two days of practice last week but played against the Raiders. The Chiefs did pull him from the lineup more than normal.

“He had some swelling in his knee last week," Reid said. “It’s not in there right now, which is a plus."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jamaal Charles might make it to the end of this season for the Kansas City Chiefs, but he’s going to be battered if he does.

Charles
Charles entered Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with a sore knee. It swelled on him Monday. Then there’s the sprained ankle that forced Charles from the game briefly in the first half.

“He’s a bit tender,’’ coach Andy Reid said.

Despite that, Charles was again the Chiefs’ best offensive player in Arizona. He rushed for 91 yards and scored both of their touchdowns, one on a 63-yard run and the other on a pass reception.

Still, Charles was given the ball just 12 times, 10 handoffs and two pass receptions. Reid indicated the Chiefs didn’t go away from Charles because of his physical condition.

“I can’t tell you he was 100 percent, feeling 100 percent, not that probably anybody is at this time of year,’’ Reid said. “He wasn’t feeling great but I still probably could have given him the ball a few more times.’’

A bigger issue, Reid said, was that the Cardinals crowded the line of scrimmage, making running plays problematic.

“They loaded it up,’’ Reid said “We came out running in the second half and had a little success. They put a few more people into the box. There were a few things we had the opportunity to take advantage of in the pass game. That’s kind of how you work it. We didn’t get everything done we wanted to there, obviously.’’

 
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --The news about safety Eric Berry's lymphoma hit hard everyone connected with the Kansas City Chiefs, but perhaps no one more than running back Jamaal Charles.

Charles
Berry
The two players became close in 2011. Berry and Charles suffered a torn ACL a week apart from one another, Berry in the season opener and Charles in Week 2. They pushed each other through the recovery from surgery and rehab, along with tight end Tony Moeaki, who tore his ACL the final week of the preseason that year.

"Eric is a great teammate," Charles said. "I've been with Eric through a lot of things. We've both been through knee surgery and he was right there by my side. I know Eric is a good person, a great person. If he can do it, anybody can do it. Good thing he found it early. He was happy about this journey he's about to go through because he's one of the toughest persons I've ever been around. What a great person to go fight this.

"Having his presence gone is sad. I just want him to have the best health in the world. I want him to get himself get better. I don't care about the game right now. I just want him to be OK so I can see my friend forever."

Charles was also close with a teenager who recently drowned in rural northern Missouri. Andre Lance, 17, had befriended Charles a year or two ago at training camp and Charles posted a photo of the two together to his Instagram account.

"I want to dedicate the game to him," Charles said. "He was just a young kid. That was a sad story to find out about."

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In case you missed it, during the bye week I issued my list of Jamaal Charles’ best five games for the Kansas City Chiefs. I didn’t go with the best statistical games necessarily, though naturally some of them are going to be on the list. The only requirement I had was that the Chiefs had to win the game for it to make the list. I wasn’t going to list a game that the Chiefs lost.

Now, after Charles broke Priest Holmes’ record for career rushing yardage for the Chiefs, I have to add this game to my list in the No. 5 spot. The Chiefs beat the Chargers 23-20 on Sunday in San Diego and the play on which Charles broke the record really captured the essence of the kind of player Charles is.

Charles
Charles didn’t have a lot of blocking help on the play. He took the ball around right end, cut back to the middle of the field and from there weaved his way through defenders for 16 yards. He took a helmet to helmet hit at the end of the play from a former teammate, Brandon Flowers, but popped right up. That the play went for a touchdown made it even sweeter.

One more thing about Charles and his record: Most of his yards have come honestly. He didn’t pile up a lot of big numbers after the Chiefs were hopelessly behind or far ahead but when his team needed them.

In 2009, when Charles set the Chiefs’ all-time single-game record for rushing yardage, he had the chance to break the league record. But the Chiefs had a healthy lead in the fourth quarter and Charles wasn’t interested in getting the record that way. He asked to be removed from the game and the Chiefs complied.

That’s another reason why Charles, franchise record or not, is the best runner the Chiefs have ever had.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Andy Reid started rattling off the things the Kansas City Chiefs did well in their Monday night thrashing of the New England Patriots and didn't really know where to stop. There were that many things the Chiefs did well in their 41-14 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.

Reid lingered a little longer in one area, and that was a pretty strong hint about his feelings. The Chiefs got 199 yards rushing, 28 more receiving, plus three touchdowns from running backs Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, and this seemed to please Reid as much or more than anything.

"It's a heck of a thing to bring [Charles] off the bench as a relief pitcher," Reid said. "He's a pretty good player."

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Knile Davis
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaKnile Davis' 107 rushing yards against the Patriots included a 48-yard attempt.
Charles was technically the starter and Davis the reserve Monday night, but beyond that the lines were blurred. They both played a lot early in the game, a rotation the Chiefs haven't used since Davis joined the team as a third-round draft pick last year.

There was much to like about the results, with Davis rushing for 107 yards on 16 carries and Charles 92 yards on 18 carries. What may be more meaningful to the Chiefs than the stats was this: They got as much from Davis as they did Charles.

"We knew before the game started that I was going to get some reps and Knile was going to get some reps," Charles said. "Knile is starting to believe in himself. He's starting to feel comfortable, and I'm happy for him."

The two players complement each other. Both are fast and big-play threats. Charles had the three touchdowns Monday night (one rushing, two receiving), Davis a 48-yard run.

But Davis is bigger, more powerful and wears down a defense faster. Charles has the ability to make defenders miss.

The Chiefs can use them from varying formations, something that makes them difficult to defend.

"They're both explosive players," Reid said. "They're completely different players, but they're both explosive players. That makes my job easy. Just give them the ball."

A rotation also allows the Chiefs to keep both players fresh. Charles is remarkable in that he's only 200 pounds but has shown little sign that the tremendous physical burden he's carried in recent seasons is taking its toll.

Within each game, though, he's bound to be better in the fourth quarter when he's sharing the load with Davis.

"You can keep throwing fastballs at the defense," Reid said. "It allows you to have two fresh backs in the fourth quarter."

The key is that the Chiefs aren't losing effectiveness when Davis enters the game. He rushed for 132 yards last week in Miami and was every bit as devastating to the Patriots as Charles was on Monday night.

The Chiefs were able to get Davis involved early. So even before the game got out of hand, the Chiefs had two backs who were carving up a defense.

"I had a few carries early in the game so I was able to get into a rhythm early," Davis said. "We both feed off each other. When he's in, I know he's going to do his thing. When I'm in, I'm going to do my thing."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs plan to expand the role of injured running back Jamaal Charles at practice Thursday as they begin preparations for Monday night's game against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium.

Charles
Charles, who injured an ankle two weeks ago, was a limited practice participant on Thursday and Friday last week but didn't play in Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.

Plans for two other injured players, safety Eric Berry and running back/kick returner De'Anthony Thomas, aren't as clear. Coach Andy Reid indicated on Monday that Berry and Thomas would "most likely" practice this week, but both appear less than certain to work Thursday. Berry, who also has a sprained ankle, was injured in the loss to Denver two weeks ago. Thomas, who has a strained hamstring, hasn't played in any of he three regular-season games. He practiced last week on Wednesday, but the Chiefs then shut him down for the week.

The Chiefs thrived without the three players against the Dolphins. At running back, Knile Davis ran for 132 yards and a touchdown and Joe McKnight caught two touchdown passes. Frankie Hammond Jr. had 100 yards on five punt returns. Berry was replaced by Ron Parker and the Chiefs' defense had its best game of the season.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's no surprise since they left last week's game in Denver in the first half and never returned, but running back Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry will not practice for the Kansas City Chiefs Wednesday.

Berry
Charles
Charles has a high ankle sprain, Berry a sprained ankle.

But De'Anthony Thomas is scheduled to practice and play in Sunday's game against the Dolphins in Miami. Thomas missed the season's first two games because of a strained hamstring.

"I've been waiting for this moment my whole life to play in my first NFL game," said Thomas, a rookie running back and receiver who was drafted in the fourth round. "It's my time to make plays and contribute to this offense."

The likely loss of Charles would be partially offset by the return of Thomas, who is world-class fast. The Chiefs lined him up in a variety of places during training camp in search of the proper matchups.

Thomas is also the Chiefs' top punt returner. He brought one back 80 yards for a touchdown in a preseason game against Cincinnati.

"Another weapon, another playmaker," quarterback Alex Smith said. "The more of those you present to a defense, the harder you are to defend."

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Expect another heavy workload for Knile Davis this weekend. Rookie De'Anthony Thomas might be available for the first time in his NFL career, but Jamaal Charles is unlikely to play for the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday when they play the Dolphins in Miami.

Davis
Charles
Coach Andy Reid said Charles has a high ankle sprain, and though Reid didn’t rule him out of the Dolphins’ game, he would probably need more recovery time before he’s ready to play.

"These things take time, but it doesn’t look to be a real severe one," Reid said. "What does that mean? We’ll see."

Charles was injured in the first quarter of Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Broncos in Denver. He was replaced by Davis, who led the Chiefs in rushing with 79 yards on 22 carries. He also was the team leader in pass receptions with six and scored both of the Chiefs' touchdowns.

"I don’t think it will change much from what you saw (Sunday)," Reid said of Davis' likely role in Miami. "He was involved in a lot of different areas. I’m not saying number of carries or anything, but you saw him going in and playing a few different ways."

Thomas, the Chiefs’ fourth-round draft pick, has yet to suit up for a regular-season game because of a sore hamstring. Reid held out some hope he could play in Miami.

"He should be able to work himself back in this week," Reid said. "We’ll just see how he does once we get to Wednesday."

The Chiefs begin their practice week on Wednesday.

Safety Eric Berry also sprained an ankle in the Denver game. Reid indicated that injury wasn’t as severe as Charles' injury.

Chiefs should get Davis ready to play

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
12:00
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Jamaal Charles is his team’s best offensive player, so if the Kansas City Chiefs know now that he will be available for this Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in Miami, they should build their game plan around him.

But doubts about his availability for the Miami game could linger all week and if so, the Chiefs would be better off preparing Knile Davis to be their featured back. Charles sprained his ankle in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Broncos in Denver and he never returned.

Davis
Davis filled in nicely against the Broncos. He was the Chiefs’ leading rusher (79 yards on 22 carries) and pass receiver (six catches). He also scored both of Kansas City’s touchdowns.

How much more could he have given the Chiefs if he had been given all of the snaps in practice during the week?

“[Davis] gets limited reps all week and so you’re practicing certainly things that are in [the game plan] for Jamaal and [Charles] gets the reps,’’ quarterback Alex Smith said. “It’s tough when these young bucks have to step in. ... It’s hard for them to know the game plan inside and out.’’

The Chiefs at 0-2 are at the point in the season where they need to go with a sure thing. If that’s Charles, so much the better. If the Chiefs aren't sure about that, they need this week to do whatever they can to make Davis the best player he can be.

W2W4: Broncos Week 2

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
7:30
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Cornerback Chris Harris is just seven months removed from ACL surgery, so the team's Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts had a work-in-progress feel for him.

"I know in the first game I wasn’t quite where I want to be with my stamina and things like that, but my knee feels great, when I was in there I felt like I showed I can play the game how I want to play it," said Harris. "But I wasn't all the way where I want to be, but I'll get there. We got the win, that’s all we’re concerned about. We’ll fix what we need to fix after wins, that’s what we want."

That is true for the Broncos as a whole. They weren’t quite where they want to be in the victory over Colts, but they won.

And as they head to a Week 2 game against the Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) Sunday, here are some things to keep an eye on:

  • [+] EnlargeDemaryius Thomas
    Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesExpect to see Demaryius Thomas get more opportunities against the Chiefs than he got in Week 1.
    Demaryius Thomas had just four receptions for 48 yards in the season opener, but those numbers figure to go up this week, especially if Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton sticks to what he did last season against Thomas. Sutton didn’t match a cornerback on Thomas, so when the Broncos moved Thomas around in the formation, they could usually get the matchup they wanted, often getting Thomas on Marcus Cooper in last season’s two meetings. As a result Thomas had two 100-yard games against the Chiefs and averaged 28.5 yards per catch in those two games. Cooper, who missed last week’s game with an injury, is expected back in the lineup Sunday.
  • Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles had just 11 touches in the opener, including just seven carries. The Broncos should, and do, expect Charles to get many more opportunities Sunday. There was a time, during his tenure in Philadelphia, when Chiefs head coach Andy Reid took some heat for leaving the run game behind in his play calling. Things got away from the Chiefs offense a bit in the loss to the Titans Sunday -- the Titans led 10-3 at half, 20-3 just before the end of the third quarter -- but the Chiefs ran the ball just 17 times in the game. The Chiefs had just two running plays in the third quarter. "We know Jamaal Charles is one of the best," Harris said. "We know they want to get him the ball."
  • The Chiefs have just one offensive lineman -- center Rodney Hudson -- who is starting in the same position for the team that he played last season. And the group looked out of sorts at times in the opening-week loss to the Titans. As a result the Broncos figure to get a steady diet of quick-hit plays as the Chiefs try to adjust. Reid has an extensive screen game in the offense and the Chiefs run many of those screens, to either side of the field, to a variety of players, when they all look the same at the start of the play. The Broncos' linebackers will have to be disciplined in their pursuit.
  • Sutton will offer plenty of unorthodox looks in the pass rush, often dropping safety Eric Berry into the mix with a delayed rush in the middle of the formation. The Colts had some success sending a rusher from off the ball late into the middle of the formation. The Broncos were slow to adjust at times and there were times Colts defenders got a free run at quarterback Peyton Manning.
  • The Broncos figure to test the Chiefs defense on the inside, particularly in the run game. Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive tackle Mike DeVito will miss the remainder of the season with Achilles tendon injuries and that is a significant amount of production out of the team’s defense, particularly on early downs when Johnson was the keystone of the team’s run fits and DeVito was in the rotation. The Broncos figure to pound away a bit to see how the Chiefs respond, both out of their two-tight-end or three-wide-receiver looks.

Broncos vs. Chiefs preview

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
8:00
AM ET

The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs don't have to wait long to open up AFC West play as they jump into a Week 2 matchup. The Broncos had one glorious half before they had to hang on in their season-opening 31-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Chiefs struggled in a 26-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium and will be without two regulars in defensive tackle Mike DeVito and linebacker Derrick Johnson, who both suffered season-ending Achilles injuries in the loss.

ESPN.com Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold discuss Sunday's game.

Legwold: Adam, every training camp for every team ends with such high hopes and plenty of optimism. What is the Chiefs' mindset after such a tough opening week?

Teicher: There's not a lot for the Chiefs to be optimistic about right now. Since their 9-0 start last season they've gone 2-7, including their collapse in the playoffs against Indianapolis. Their offensive line is in tatters, quarterback Alex Smith is throwing interceptions in uncharacteristically high numbers, running back Jamaal Charles didn’t get the ball much against Tennessee, some of their best young players aren't contributing much, they lost two of their best defensive players for the season with injuries last week and their defense got pushed around by Jake Locker and the Titans. Then there's the upcoming schedule, which has the Chiefs playing road games against the Broncos, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers and a home game against the New England Patriots in the next five weeks. Otherwise, all is good with the Chiefs.

What about the Broncos in this regard? The losing team in the Super Bowl often has a season-long hangover afterward, but the Broncos don't seem to be affected.

Legwold: When the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said he wanted not only Manning's play on the field, but also a player "who raises all boats." Manning and the other Broncos veterans attacked the offseason and a fairly young team overall has taken its cues from those hard-driving older players. When they brought in veteran players such as DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward, those guys saw this as a chance at a Super Bowl, so they have been no nonsense as they've gone about their business. That has kept things on the tracks. The suspensions handed down to wide receiver Wes Welker and kicker Matt Prater ended what had been a quiet summer for the team. But, overall, it's a locked-in group that needs to avoid injuries to key players to be in the title mix again.

In terms of offseason work, the Chiefs locked up Smith with a contract extension. What was the organization's plan and is there even more pressure on Smith now to lift them into the postseason?

Teicher: The plan with Smith all along, from the time they acquired him in the trade with the 49ers, was to lock him up for the long term. At no time did they consider him a stopgap or the bridge to the next quarterback. Those plans could have changed had they not been satisfied with Smith's play last season. But Smith last season was the guy the Chiefs thought they were getting. This new contract certainly increases the pressure on Smith to deliver. The Chiefs have committed to him in a big way, and he will be consuming a significant portion of the team's salary cap. Smith is by no means solely responsible for last Sunday's loss, but he didn't play well. He threw three interceptions, and two were bad decisions on his part, the kind of choices he doesn't usually make. The Chiefs are paying him a lot of money to make better decisions.

You mentioned Denver's offseason signings of defensive players in Ware, Talib and Ward. How has their presence changed the complexion of the Broncos' defense?

Legwold: Elway spends a lot of time talking about "the mindset" and "the mentality to win a world championship," and when he was waving the team's checkbook around in free agency, he went looking for players with the mindset to remake the defense. There are just six players on the roster who started on defense in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos players voted Ware a captain and his straightforward, no-nonsense approach has made him an almost instant team leader. He also had 1.5 sacks in the opener, and while some in the league had labeled Ware a declining player in his 10th season, the Broncos think they can manage his snaps to get the most out of him. Ward and Talib bring an edge the Broncos wanted, and both were all over the field this past Sunday night. Toss in the first-round pick, cornerback Bradley Roby, and the Broncos will play with more aggressiveness and a bigger variety in personnel groupings than they did in last season's two games against the Chiefs.

Defensively, how will the Chiefs adjust to the injuries to DeVito and Johnson? Will it alter their approach dramatically, especially given what Johnson means to the group?

Teicher: I don't think the Chiefs will change their approach dramatically, but there's no question they will feel the loss of both players. Johnson will be replaced by James-Michael Johnson. The Chiefs went out in free agency and signed veteran Joe Mays, a former Broncos player, to fill one of their inside linebacker spots, an indication they didn't think Johnson was ready to be a full-time player. He got a long look in passing situations during the preseason, and the Chiefs are more comfortable with him playing in coverage than against the run. That said, he's no Derrick Johnson, who is superb against the run and versatile against the pass. DeVito was one of the Chiefs' better run defenders and was improving as a pass-rusher. His main replacement will be Jaye Howard, who had a promising preseason. Former Oakland Raider Vance Walker, and even the newly signed Kevin Vickerson, could get some playing time as well.

The Chiefs tried to sign wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in free agency before he joined the Broncos. He looked like a good fit for the Broncos in the opener against Indianapolis. What are their expectations for him? And give us a little scouting report on Vickerson, a former Bronco.

Legwold: In terms of players on offense who were available in free agency, Sanders was the team's top target. The Broncos' offensive coaches, particularly offensive coordinator Adam Gase, like Sanders' versatility in that he can line up in the outside spots and in the slot to go with the fact he has quality short-area quickness to beat press coverage off the snap and top-end speed to run away from defenders in the open. Manning has worked extensively with him -- the two stayed after practice, often with rookie receiver Cody Latimer -- every day of offseason workouts, as well as in training camp. The work helped, and Sanders projects to a big season in this offense. Vickerson was likely the 54th player on this roster when the Broncos cut to 53. The Broncos liked his work on run downs and the physicality and ability take on double-teams. They did have some long-term concern about his hip -- Vickerson was kept on a limited schedule throughout much of training camp -- but they needed a little cap space and kept only eight defensive linemen, so Vickerson got caught in the squeeze.
Charles
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If anyone knows the demands of being a workhorse NFL running back, it's someone who's been in that spot. Eric Bieniemy never put in the workload during his nine-year career that Jamaal Charles has recently put in, but as a former running back Bieniemy can still appreciate the difficulty Charles faces in doing again in 2014 what he did last year. Charles is No. 11 in the 2014 #NFLRank survey of offensive players.

"The hardest part about being a professional is being a consistent professional," said Bieniemy, who as the Kansas City Chiefs' running backs coach now works with Charles. "Everybody knows Jamaal is a great player, [but] it's going to be a huge challenge for him. The thing that I love about Jamaal is that he doesn't take anything for granted."

It will help Charles that, by all accounts, he worked as hard during the offseason as he did when he was a rookie with the Chiefs. But his recent workload -- 544 carries and 105 catches combined in the past two seasons -- has to take its toll.

If the prevailing theory holds that an NFL back only has so much work in him before his skills start to erode, Charles will have trouble getting to his 2013 numbers of 1,287 yards rushing, 70 pass receptions and 19 total touchdowns.

"I don't believe that," Charles said when asked about that theory. "I think those are just numbers."

That may be. Charles is only 27 and his big 2013 season followed a solid 2012 (1,509 yards rushing, 35 pass receptions, 6 touchdowns). Charles also believes that playing in coach Andy Reid's offense saves him wear and tear.

"[Reid's offense] puts me in space where I can catch the ball out of the backfield and make a move, make somebody miss," Charles said. "He wasn't always trying to get somebody to get a big hit on me."

The Chiefs have talked about trying to lessen Charles' load. They drafted running back Knile Davis in 2013 and another, De'Anthony Thomas, this year. But Charles is their best player, their big-game threat, and they'll go to him often in a close game.

"You have a player who wants the football," Reid said. "He loves playing the game, and you have a coach who kind of likes giving it to him."
As NFL offenses continue to evolve and the passing game takes on more prevalence, the running back is losing his value. No back has been selected in the first round of the draft in the past two years.

That trend hasn’t reached Kansas City and the Chiefs, at least when it comes to the value of the featured back. The Chiefs celebrate their backs, who are as important as ever to Kansas City’s offensive fortunes.

Charles
 The Chiefs realize this. They recently gave a contract extension to running back Jamaal Charles, who led the Chiefs in rushing, pass receiving and touchdowns last season. Despite the presence of Charles, the Chiefs drafted a running back in each of the past three years and two of them, Knile Davis and rookie De’Anthony Thomas, join Charles as Kansas City’s preeminent big-play threats.

The Chiefs will wind up cutting at least one back or perhaps two who could play for other teams, Cyrus Gray and Joe McKnight.

So excuse Charles if he takes offense at the notion that running backs just aren’t as important as they once were.

 “I don’t think it’s changed,’’ he said. “I think it depends on what style of running back you have. You can have a power back, [but] there are a lot of power backs [who] can’t catch the ball. Or you can have a skilled back [who] is an athlete, can run and catch the ball like a wide receiver. I think that can bring the game back.

“I think running back is the most important [position] on the field because we pick up the blitz, we run the ball, and we catch the ball. So I think we do more than the wide receivers, O-line, and maybe the quarterback. So I think the running back job is really important.”

Charles’ role was even important for the Chiefs in last year’s preseason opener against the Saints in New Orleans. He got the ball eight times, five times on a handoff and three as a receiver and scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run.

But that was the Chiefs' first season under Andy Reid, and they were still trying to find themselves an identity. Charles may not get as much work Thursday night when the Chiefs open their preseason, this time at Arrowhead Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“Whatever the coaches do, I’m all with it,’’ Charles said. “If I have to play, I have to play. It’s my job to play football.

“Whatever the coaches think I need . . . I guess I’ve got to go out there and do it. I can’t complain. I’m not going to be selfish. I’m going to do what they tell me.’’

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