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Will Jamaal Charles Still Run It Up The Gut Under Reid?

RB Jamaal Charles became the first Chief to crack into the top 20 of the NFL Network’s Top 100 players this year, and rightly so.

“To be a smaller back in this league, he is able to run between the tackles. A lot of guys aren’t willing to do it. He’s willing to do it,” said Browns LB D’Qwell Jackson in the NFL Network video.

Jackson should know. Charles blew past him in an 80-yard touchdown run behind RT Eric Winston on the first play from scrimmage when the two teams faced each other in 2012. The run ended up being the only offensive play of note in the game on the Kansas City side and one of the many amazing pieces of Charles’ 2012 highlight reel.

But, as we all know, Chiefs HC Andy Reid comes with a new system and one that is far less traditional than what Chiefs fans have seen in recent memory. It’s well known that Reid likes to get the ball to dynamic players in space and relies less on power up the middle. This of course begs two questions – Will Charles continue to run it up the gut like we’ve seen him do for years and should he even be doing so in the first place?


First, will he?


Yes, but not as much.

Eagles RB LeSean McCoy ran it up the middle on 31 (15.5%) of his 200 carries under Reid last year. Charles, meanwhile, took it up the gut on 63 (22.2%) out of his 283 carries. So, while Charles ran it up the middle more than twice as many times as McCoy did, he also had more carries overall and was the feature back for a team that had the 5th most rushing attempts in the league.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Still, I doubt we’ll see Charles run straight ahead on more than a fifth of his carries again this year. The question is: who will?

With RB Peyton Hillis gone, the Chiefs no longer have a classic banger-style back. Behind Charles in the depth chart are Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray who have basically the same body types as Jamaal – all are between 5’10 and 6’ and weigh about 200 lbs. While Gray is a bit of a question mark, neither of those guys have shown themselves to be tougher or grittier than Charles, they’re just all-around less dynamic.

This is where RB Knile Davis is an interesting piece to examine. At 226 lbs., he has a heavier frame than any of the other backs in the stables, but he also has breakaway speed. He seems to have been mostly used as a kick returner in minicamps and OTA’s, but don’t be surprised if you see Reid call on him to smash forward on power runs with the hope that he can hit the hole and use his speed to make something of it.

Then again, McCoy’s backup in Philly, Wichita native Bryce Brown, ran it up the middle even less than he did — just 12% of the time – so who knows.


Should Charles be running up the middle in the first place?


Now this is perhaps the more interesting question, and my answer – sure, but no more than McCoy did.

The fact is that neither, McCoy, Brown or Charles have had much success up the middle one way or the other. None scored a touchdown or broke a gain of more than 17 yards running straight ahead in 2012.

I think the 12%-15% range is the right spot. The fact is that as with everything you do on offense, you have to mix it up to keep the defense honest. It may seem to make sense to use Charles for screens and runs to the outside where he can really break one off and bring in a bigger guy to pound away behind center, but doing so makes for a very transparent game plan.

Hillis ran up the middle for the Chiefs 41% of the time and gained just 3.6 yards per carry on average when doing so. Why? Because every coach and his mother knew that if Hillis was on the field, it was time to load the box. If Charles is there, position your linebackers to fill the outside gaps and contain. Consequently, the Chiefs got the opposite of what they intended. Charles actually outperformed the power back Hillis up the middle, with a 4.0 average and Hillis actually averaged 6.2 yards when running wide to the right – so naturally they only ran him that direction nine times all year.

No matter how large or small your running back is, he has to go up the middle sometimes, and counter-intuitively it is actually a strategic benefit to having similar-sized backs that are used everywhere and that keep the defense guessing.

Still, it’s obvious that Charles has the best opportunity to make a play on the outside, and its honestly not worth taking the risk of him getting injured or worn down but putting him at the bottom of a front-seven dog pile 10 times a game.

I am very excited to see how Reid gets the ball into Charles’ hands and maximize his ability to move the rock downfield. With all of his grind-it-out plays over the last few seasons, it’s actually easy to forget that Charles currently holds the record for yards per carry among running backs in NFL history at 5.8, which is insane.

As long as he stays healthy, he’s going to get his, no worries there.

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Tags: Andy Reid Jamaal Charles LeSean McCoy Run Game

  • micah stephenson

    Charles is tuff enuff to run up the middle. Im hoping that rookie can run hard and tuff like LJ use to. That will give us a nice 1 two punch.

    • Travis Forsyth

      like LJ? you mean run up to the line of scrimmage and fall down….yeah, NO!

      • Darkwolf1414

        Before LJ got his fat contract he ran hard as hell. After the pay day he started tiptoeing to the line instead of bursting through the hole.

        • micah stephenson

          Travis is ether playing dum and acting like he dont know which version of LJ Im talking bout OR just hating on Micah.

      • micah stephenson

        I mean the LJ that had an oline. Not the run into the back of my olinemen version of LJ. If Davis cud be like the good LJ, then omg!!!!

      • Justin R Groth

        Like LJ back when he broke through the line five yards out broke an arm tackle crossed the goal line and a safety met him there. the safety bounce off him and LJ looked at him and all I could think was shoo fly shoo

  • IceChief27

    Toben Opurum could be a good option for short yardage and between the tackles if he makes the team.

  • Travis Forsyth

    can Charles run up the gut? sure. will he? probably not. since we have 3 other backs in Davis, Grey, and Draughn, there’s really no need to make Charles do the ground and pound…

  • Jim Harper

    Of course Charles can do that, but I fully expect him to do that occasionally just to keep the defenses honest. What Reid will do is get him the ball through the air to get him in space where he can really do damage. So I expect his touches to go up but runs up the middle go down. I also expect Reid to rotate Charles and Davis some to give Jamaal some breathers.

  • Priest4Prez

    I agree with these statistics; I’m a Madden-o-holic and these are reflective to my game plan strategy. Realistic? Not very, but I catch your drift.

  • Ashhole20

    I feel like if we really want to know how Reid will run his offense, we should be looking at 2011 instead of 2012, since with all that happened last year with personal tragedy and Offensive line injuries, 2012 should be seen as the outlier opposed to the standard. Last year was among Reid’s worst offenses, and I highly doubt we get that Reid opposed to the one that has been seen as an offensive guru for the past decade. Try pulling up stats from 2011, the year that Lesean Mccoy ran for 17 tds, I feel like that would be a much better sample since that was more of his optimum/ideal offense compared to the one that ended up giving the Eagles a top 5 pick.

    • NicholasAlanClayton

      Well, since you ask, McCoy ran it up the middle 20.5% of the time in 2011 and had 73 more touches overall, scoring 2 TD’s in the process. Granted he was healthier that year and it seems that the Philly O-line was overall playing a lot better.

      Meanwhile, Reid threw to McCoy more often in 2012 and McCoy did better in that department overall, averaging 6.9 yards per catch and scoring 3 TD’s.

      The numbers could send you in conclusions in a number of directions, but I’m better we see Charles used more on traps and counters while doing a lot more as a receiver.

  • BWrangler

    Check out the tape on Braden Wilson, especially the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon. He’s got the speed and the strength to get out in front of JC, make multiple blocks, and spring him…inside or outside. I hope that Reid still shoots JC at the heart of the defense, because that’s a demoralizer…”that dude just ran through all 11 of us and all we could do is marvel at his cleat pattern”

  • Nick Weisbeck

    Marcus Allen has 2 inches and 10 pounds on Charles and Allen ran the ball plenty up the middle. I think Charles can run the same.

    • Darkwolf1414

      Allen was another back who didn’t take a lot of big hits. Jamaal doesn’t shy away from contact and neither did Allen but they just know when to turn their shoulders to deflect a hit. Of course, any RB is going to take a big hit every now and then. I read an article awhile back and Raiders fans were comparing McFadden to Allen. They have similar body types but McFadden fancies himself a power back. That’s part of why his silly ass can’t stay healthy.

  • micah stephenson

    People say Reid dont run much in his offense. When you have J.Charles you will run the ball. It dont matter what you use to do.