Nov 18, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) escapes a tackle from Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga (58) during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

How Many Touches Should Jamaal Charles Have?

Jamaal Charles is an amazing talent. I would argue that he is the most gifted player that the Kansas City Chiefs have had on their roster since Derrick Thomas. Other players on the Chiefs roster like Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Brandon Flowers, and Dwayne Bowe are incredibly talented, but Charles is one of those special players that stand out even amongst the best of the best.

Charles was recently voted the #20 player in the NFL (the highest rated Chief) on NFL.com’s top 100 NFL players list. Considering that Charles’ team was 2-14 and had no passing game to keep defenses honest, that’s pretty impressive. Charles was one of only three players in the top 20 that was on a team with a losing record along with Drew Brees (#11, 7-9) and Calvin Johnson (#3, 4-12). There were three running backs ahead of Charles (Ray Rice at #13, Arian Foster at #8, and Adrian Peterson at #1). It’s hard to argue with Adrian Peterson after the season he had, but I wonder where Rice and Foster would have placed on this list if they were coming off a 2-14 season?

If there has been any complaint that KC fans have had in regards to Jamaal Charles it has been that KC hasn’t used him enough. Former KC radio personality Nick Wright even tried spearheading a “Free Jamaal Charles” movement. Many KC fans agree, and would love to see JC with 20-25 carries every game. However, with the hiring of Andy Reid I think most KC fans acknowledge that 20+ carries every game is probably not going to happen. The hope then becomes that increased pass receptions make up for those carries and keep his touches up.

So how many touches should Charles get? Should it be more than he’s gotten in the past? Is he under utilized compared to other great running backs? How many touches do the featured backs in Reid’s offense usually get?

These are all questions I had going into this piece and that I will try to answer for you now.

First let’s look at what JC has done thus far in his career. For the sake of this piece I’m going to look at his numbers during the 2010 and 2012 seasons plus the 8 games he was the feature back after taking over for Larry Johnson in 2009. In those 40 games JC has had 676 carries for 3,936 yards. He has also had 103 receptions over those games. That gives him the following numbers.

16.9 carries per game
270.4 carries per 16 games
5.8 yards per carry
19.5 total touches per game

So how do his touches/game numbers compare to the other best backs in the league? Well, I looked up the numbers for those three backs that were ahead of Charles on the Top 100 List. Here’s what I came up with.

Adrian Peterson has averaged 21.7 touches/game over his career and 5.0 YPC.
Arian Foster has averaged 24.8 touches/game since becoming the starter and 4.5 YPC.
Ray Rice has averaged 21.7 touches/game since becoming the starter and 4.6 YPC.

Foster is averaging a solid 5.3 touches/game more than JC, but Peterson and Rice are only averaging 2.2 touches/game more. That number surprised me. I would have guessed that Peterson and Rice would have touched the ball significantly more than Charles in a typical game, but that hasn’t been the case.

In my opinion, that makes JC’s 5.8 YPC all the more impressive. I had always held the belief that part of the reason that JC was more explosive than most other backs was that he was fresh because of the lack of touches. However, with only 2 less touches per game than backs like Peterson and Rice his significantly higher YPC is even more staggering. It also puts in doubt the notion that Charles is under utilized. I certainly am not aware of any “Free Adrian Peterson” or “Free Ray Rice” movements.

It also got me thinking about how JC’s numbers might compare with some of the best running backs of all time. Here’s how four of the greatest in NFL history shaped up.

Jim Brown: 22.2 touches per game, 5.2 YPC
Walter Payton: 22.8 touches per game, 4.4 YPC
Barry Sanders: 22.3 touches per game, 5.0 YPC
Emmitt Smith: 21.8 touches per game, 4.2 YPC

So the greatest running backs in the history of the game only averaged about 3 touches per game more than what JC has averaged as a starter thus far in his career and JC’s 5.8 YPC trumps them all significantly.

So what should we expect from JC moving forward in Andy Reid’s offense? I took a look at what LeSean McCoy has done the past three seasons as the feature back in Philly.

McCoy averaged 20.5 touches per game.
16.2 carries per game
4.7 YPC
4.3 receptions per game

If you applied those same touches to JC, here is what you would come up with.
16.2 carries per game over 16 games is about 259 carries. 259 carries at JC’s 5.8 yards per carry gives you about 1,500 yards. If JC has 4.3 receptions per game over 16 games that’s about 69 receptions. JC has averaged 8.4 yards per reception, so that would give him about 580 yards receiving. That would give him over 2000 yards of total offense with only 20.5 touches per game.

I would take that in a heartbeat.

So if this next season JC averages about 16 carries per game and 4 receptions per game are you content with that? Would you like to see him touch the ball ever more? Do you think he would continue to be as explosive if his workload jumped up to almost 25 touches per game like Arian Foster? Given that Charles is the smallest of all those backs at only 5-11 and 199 lbs, I think about 20 touches per game is about perfect. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on JC this next season in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PS – If you want to see JC in action and how he compares to some of the best RB’s ever, check out the latest amazing offering from Red Tribe Cinema.

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