Watching the Bengals-Jets game, I had a epiphany. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles — not Cedric “I’m On A Boat” Benson nor “Sticky Icky” Ricky Williams — is the best ex-Texas Longhorns RB in the NFL. Additionally, he looks to be both the new breed of running back and potentially one of the best RBs in football. Just follow me on this one.
Today’s NFL is too physical for the Larry Johnson or Brandon Jacobs battering-ram backs. All the players are bigger and faster than they have ever been, so much so that the NFL is continuing to take safety precautions that wouldn’t have even been considered 10 years ago. Because of that, smaller, shifty, elusive backs with good hands and enough power to get the job done inside from time to time are the new feature backs. Chris Johnson. MJD. Ray Rice.
First off, their versatility makes them more useful in today’s pass-happy NFL. Second, their elusive style and diminutive size, by NFL standards at least, makes them harder to hit cleanly and keeps them on the field. If you look at the top six rushers, three off them — Johnson (1), Jones-Drew (4) and Rice (6) — are small backs. Steven Jackson (2) gets hurt every season, and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks down completely a la L.J. Thomas Jones (3) ran behind the best line in football. Adrian Peterson (5)? He’s the rare big man who has the shiftiness and speed of a scatback. We’ve seen about, oh, four guys like that (Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson and him).
If you project Charles’ stats out of an entire season, he easily cracks that top six. In fact, his stats project that he would have finished with 1,645 yards had he of started 16 games, good for second in the NFL. Benson and Williams finished eighth and tenth respectively. Additionally, neither back’s style ensures a long shelf life, and both backs have been in major trouble with the league’s front office in the past. Not only does Charles have a style that should allow him to enjoy a long playing career, but he also is a model citizen.
Sure, Benson looked good against the Jets, but he is playing behind a better line and I still question whether he will stay in shape and out of trouble. As for Ricky 4:20, he will play longer serving as Ronnie Brown’s caddy, but his days are still numbered. And that’s if he can keep from falling back into his affair with Mary Jane.
And we haven’t even talked about Charles’ hands. J.C. had 40 receptions this past year, close to as good as any back not named Ray Rice (78) despite only starting 10 games. Rice had the luxury of playing in the conservative Baltimore Ravens offense and catching balls from Joe “Captain Checkdown” Flacco. MJD, Jackson and Johnson all had about 50, while Purple Jesus had 43.
I’m just amazed that a guy who was inactive for a game this season looks like a RB who’s: A.) Possibly the best ex-Longhorns RB in the NFL, a lofty claim; B.) The Chiefs’ feature back for the next half-decade; and C.) A back comparable to almost all of the backs who were in the NFL’s top 10 for rushing yards. Am I overrating Charles? That’s a possibility, but the stats and trends don’t lie. With the Charlie Weis now directing the offense, it looks like Charles is going to be in charge for a long time in the AFC West. Especially since we tend to have luck with ex-Texas backs.
Thanks for reading and I hope to keep chiming in with a post like this on just about a weekly basis to supplement the great coverage that Patrick, Andrew and the rest of the gang keeps serving up.