The Kansas City Chiefs have a potential Hall-of-Fame running back in Jamaal Charles. The former University of Texas star came into the league as a third-round pick in 2008 and has already become the franchise leader in rushing yards with 6,856, despite sitting most of his rookie year, splitting carries with Thomas Jones for two years and losing a season to a torn ACL.
Oh yeah, the 28-year-old also owns the highest yards per carry average in league history with 5.5, never having a campaign below 5.0. However, Charles is beginning to see his star come into question after fighting through ankle and foot injuries throughout 2014.
On ESPN.com, Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher asked the other three AFC West writers whether the best days of Charles have already been seen. Here’s a sampling of the answers from Jeff Legwold (Broncos), Bill Williamson (Raiders) and Eric D. Williams (Chargers).
"Legwold: Charles’ career per-carry average — 5.5 yards per rush, including 5.0 in each of the last two seasons — indicate that when he’s healthy, his impact is consistent. But in light of the nagging injuries that trailed him last season, in addition to ACL reconstruction in 2011, the Chiefs’ ability to regulate his touches might determine his impact over the course of the season.Williamson: Yes, Charles’ best seasons are probably behind him. But that’s OK. He’s a running back. It’s part of the deal. Of the 16 Pro Football Hall of Fame running backs to begin their careers in the Super Bowl era, only Walter Payton and Curtis Martin were more productive per rush from their age-30 season on than in previous years, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.Williams: It depends on how Kansas City’s revamped offensive line performs in front of him. Charles remains one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL. But he can’t do it by himself. Charles needs consistent running lanes so he’s not getting stalled at the line of scrimmage."
While it is understandable to see people believing Charles’ best days are behind him, you also have to wonder if he might have some incredible years ahead. In Andy Reid’s offense, Charles is going to catch passes and stay fresh with Reid usually throwing more often than most coaches. With Jeremy Maclin in the house, that should only help Charles to see some lighter fronts.
Last year, Charles cracked 1,000 yards rushing and accounted for 14 total touchdowns despite playing hurt and missing one game and almost all of another. He also did it behind a line made of wet paper. Charles always seems to be one of those players who unfortunately flies under the radar nationally because he plays for a team that hasn’t enjoyed any postseason success in the last 20 years.
Then, there is Andy Benoit’s Twitter timeline. The Sports Illustrated writer ranked the running backs and has Charles behind Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy and LeVeon Bell. While all of those players are tremendous talents, it’s fun to ponder whether he is better than all of them. With Peterson, he’s a once-in-a-generation back but he’s also coming off a 15-game suspension for beating his son with a tree branch. Lynch is incredible but a different style, while McCoy and Bell are similar because they can do it all. However, Charles is massively ahead in the blocking category.
Charles reminds me of Curtis Martin, from the standpoint of just being great year after year and always being overlooked. Am I bitter? Probably. I’m not overly attached to most players, but I have a soft spot for Charles, and I openly admit that. He plays hard, he plays hurt and he never complains. Between him and Tamba Hali, Chiefs fans should recognize the type of special people they have on the roster.
What say you, Addicts? Is Charles getting shafted or are the experts on the money? Let me know in the comments.