The NFL is a league where trends come and go in full force every few seasons. Earlier this decade, we saw the read-option movement takeoff with the likes of RG3, Russell Wilson, and Kaepernick helming potent offenses based around the concept.
Also trending around the same time was an almost league-wide devaluation of the running back position. The idea of drafting a back in the first round was scoffed at, and teams were even less giddy at the thought of ponying up for one on the free agent market. As with any trend, there are ebbs and flows, and anybody that watched the NFL in 2015 could plainly see that the position has transitioned well into the latter phase.
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With running backs going through a renaissance, Dorsey went ahead and ensured the Chiefs will have one of the league’s most dangerous trios come 2016 by locking up Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. Since we are all well aware of what a (hopefully) healthy Jamaal Charles will bring to the table in 2016, let’s take a closer look at what West and Ware bring to the table, and what Dorsey saw that made him want to keep both guys as Chiefs.
There’s one key trait West possess which enables him to succeed in Andy Reid’s offense: his combination of vision and decisiveness. This trait most clearly manifests itself when West takes a handoff out of the gun – where, typically, it is the job of the running back to find a lane rather than there being a designated one. When West gets a handoff, he does a great job surveying the blocks unfolding in front of him, quickly making a decision where to go, and then turning upfield.
Let’s look at a play from his first start against the Steelers back in Week 7:
West has just received the handoff from Smith here, and is looking at his options. There’s some decent room directly in front of him, on the right side of the formation, but the OLB and safety will come crashing hard when they see Smith empty-handed.
To the left, there is a slight gap forming between the guard and tackle, but it’s looking precarious.
As West inches closer to the line, both the OLB and safety are in a position to shut down the play for a minimal gain on the right side. West proceeds to make an impressive cut to the other side of the formation where the guard and tackle have managed to turn that gap into a legitimate lane. There is no hesitation in West once he sees it.
I see this as a run that could’ve easily been a one or two yard gain with the running back being too tempted by the daylight on the right side of the formation. But West manages to stay patient enough to find a better option, while not wasting time by dancing behind the line of scrimmage. It’s not a flashy play by any means, but in the red zone, a five yard run on first down is a play the Chiefs offense will take every time.
Make no mistake, West has physical talents such as speed and elusiveness, but these are seemingly commodities in today’s NFL. It is much harder to find a running back who possesses these attributes, but relies more on his vision while being decisive and minimizing the amount of negative plays for his offense. That’s the type of back the Chiefs found in West.
Oh and I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention West’s pass blocking. There is no doubt in my mind that Jamaal’s attitude towards pass blocking has rubbed off on West, because West gives his absolute all any time he’s asked to stay in and block.
Coming all the way across the formation to chip a blitzing linebacker and buy your QB just a little more time has to earn you major brownie points with Andy Reid.
Few things are more fun to see during a Chiefs game than Spencer Ware out in the open field. I mean the guy knows exactly what his bread and butter is, so when he encounters an unlucky soul in open space, every single Chiefs fan knows what’s coming:
And that, ladies and gentleman, is exactly why the Chiefs were wise to keep Ware around.
The thing to love about Ware is he’s the definition of a classic power runner; he hits the hole at one speed – full. Where Charckandrick is the back you bring in if you’re lining up a lot in shotgun formation and want to keep the defense guessing as to whether it will be a run or a pass. Spencer is the man for when the defense knows exactly what’s coming, but you’re intent on asserting your authority regardless.
Third and three, and a first down ices the game – is there a play more tailor-made for Spencer Ware’s talents? The defense knows what’s most likely coming, they even get to him at the line of scrimmage, but they’re helpless in stopping him from reaching the sticks.
Ware’s unabashed power running style is the perfect complement to Charles and West. It’ll also help Andy Reid simplify things in short yardage scenarios, the same scenarios where he sometimes runs into a little bit of trouble by over-thinking things.
I have no reservations in saying that a backfield that consists of Charles, West, and Ware is one of, if not, the best in all of football. Charles is an elite talent when healthy, and the other two took the opportunity afforded to them in 2015 to prove they are more than capable of handling the load should they need to. I have no idea how Andy Reid plans to utilize all three of these backs, but it’s definitely one of the things I’m looking forward to most in 2016.