After celebrating the extension of Jamaal Charles in the offseason, after only 3 weeks some fans are questioning whether the Chiefs should look at trading Charles. These people suggest the offense has played better with Knile Davis in the backfield. Seems crazy doesn’t it? It can’t be true, right? Based on the evidence so far is it really that much of a stretch? In the first game of the season against the Tennessee Titans, the Chiefs offense sputtered virtually all day long. In game two versus the Denver Broncos, Charles has 2 rushes for only 4 yards before leaving the game with a high ankle sprain. What about Davis’s first carry? He takes off for 25 yards and the offense finishes the day showing signs of life; albeit in a losing effort. The next week against the Miami Dolphins, Davis runs the ball 32 times for 132 yards and a score. So what gives?
Could a pieced together offensive line be the culprit? Although Charles can break tackles well for a back his size, is it possible that Davis being the big back that he is, it gives him an advantage over Charles with a less than stellar line? To be fair to Charles, the Chiefs lined up week one with a line composed of a young Left Tackle who has struggled, a rookie and a journeyman at Guard, and a guy who played Guard last year at Right Tackle due to the Donald Stephenson suspension. The only guy that started a single game at the position that he started on the line last year was Rodney Hudson.
Has Charles taken too much of a beating? As mentioned, even though Charles is a small back, he isn’t afraid to thump somebody. He also takes some awkward hits due to his shiftiness and tackles along the sideline. While this theory seems plausible, it seems entirely too early to tell. Besides his lack of touches in the first game we also know he only saw 3 total touches in the second game. This is too small of a sample to suggest this is the case. Not to mention it was week 5 last season before Charles cracked 100 yards rushing in a game.
The real problem in this story is the play calling by Andy Reid. In the first game, Charles only had 11 touches; 7 of which were rushing. Put simply, this is nowhere near enough touches for the second highest paid running back in the NFL. If Charles was a typical running back and the Chiefs had been getting blown out of the water, a lack of carries could be justified. The problem is Charles is arguably one of the best receivers the Chiefs have. Last season, Charles was the team leader in pass targets and receptions. There is no justifiable explanation for why Charles did not get the ball more.
In the next game, Reid obviously did not get a chance to use his expensive back. Also, while Davis filled Charles shoes admirably and had some nice fantasy numbers with two TD’s he still only averaged just over 3.5 yards per carry and did not crack 100 yards. Additionally, his 4 yards per reception (which reduces to just over 3 yards per reception minus an 11 yard play) didn’t provide the spark that Charles often does catching the ball out of the backfield. The thing to note was the increase in the amount of touches the Chiefs starting back had in the second game. Davis had 28 touches in this game compared to the 11 mentioned for Charles in the first one. Still, Reid could have helped his back and his entire offense by giving the ball to his backs more inside the 30 yard line.
In the first drive of the 3rd quarter, the Chiefs had a drive that lasted 10 minutes and left the field with nothing to show for it (thanks to a missed field goal by rookie kicker Cairo Santos). The problem on this drive was the play calling for the backs inside the 30. In 10 plays inside the 30 Davis saw the ball just twice including once inside the 10 yard line. This is the time to use your back to keep the defense honest since they do not have to cover as much field. In the final drive for the Chiefs, Davis was given the ball 2 times in 7 plays inside the 30. This is not as egregious, but the play calling also seemed a bit conservative with both carries being runs up the middle.
What week 3 really came down to was Reid playing more to his teams strengths and evening out the distribution between passing and rushing. Additionally, the Chiefs continued to target their tight ends more, including Chiefs fans newest man crush Travis Kelce. If Reid calls the next game similar to how he did against the Miami Dolphins, Charles should show that he is worth every penny the Chiefs paid him. And if the performance in week 3 is any clue, an offense and team seeming to gel just may allow this team to make a run after their 0-2 start, especially when Charles (and Eric Berry) back. The next problem? The schedule….