Why Charles Is Important to the Pass


Jul 28, 2013; St. Joseph, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) carries the ball during training camp at Missouri Western State University. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

It was no mystery how Andy Reid handled running backs when he accepted the head coaching role for the Kansas City Chiefs. During his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, his running backs were near the top of the NFL in receptions every year. In 2010, LeSean McCoy led the entire NFL in receptions by a running back – and was 14th overall – with 78 receptions, 592 yards, and good for 7.6 yards per receptions. This might be similar to what Andy Reid wants to do with Jamaal Charles.

“He’s capable of doing the same things that [Brian] Westbrook did and that [LeSean] McCoy did as far as the pass game,” Reid said after Tuesday’s practice. “He’s a legitimate threat with his speed, his route running ability and his hands. He catches the ball very easy.”

It’s been clear so far during training camp that Charles was going to be a more central character in the passing game. I had the opportunity to attend Chiefs training camp last Friday, and when Charles was in there, swing routes and screens were popular play calls. And while these are very basic plays which might be a reason they are running them with regularity during the early stages of training camp, it wasn’t hard to imagine how dangerous Charles can be in open space.

That aspect was a huge part of the Bill Walsh “West Coast Offense,” of which Andy Reid is a disciple. Spread the field horizontally, get athletes in open space, and use the passing game not just as a complement to the running game, but almost as a substitution. And, perhaps the most vital part: yards after catch. When is Charles more dangerous? When he’s running towards a defensive line or when he’s running around/already behind the defensive line? Statistics would tell you the latter.

While Charles averages an astonishing 5.8 yards per carry in his career, he also averages 8.4 yards per reception in his career. In fact, the BEST rushing team last year, Minnesota, averaged 5.4 yards per carry while the WORST receiving team in the league last year, also Minnesota, averaged 9.8 yards per reception. While Adrian Peterson put the Vikings on his back last year, and the Chiefs have always been used to being a run-first offense, passing is not just the future of the NFL, it is the present. Statistically, passing is much more effective than running the ball, and Andy Reid is finally bringing that offense to Kansas City.

The Chiefs, of course, will not abandon their running game entirely. The threat of a running game will always make the passing game more effective. And whatever carries Charles loses this season, I’m sure he’ll make up for in receptions. As Chiefs quarterback, Alex Smith, noted after yesterday’s practice: “[Charles is a] really versatile player. He’s a matchup mismatch with the ball in his hands all over the field. I don’t think there’s any situational football you couldn’t have him in. I think he’s that versatile.”

I think Andy Reid would agree with that sentiment.