We will treat Charles’ absence from the 2011 season as an extended blink of an eye, assuming we will be blessed with watching the same explosive player we saw prior to slamming our eyes shut upon seeing him writhe on the ground in pain after tearing his ACL during a 48-3 loss in Week 2 against the Detroit Lions.
Following the injuries to Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry, Charles going down pulled the curtains on any hope the Chiefs had of building on the success of the 2010 season in which they were able to capture the AFC West title.
The Chiefs were obviously not prepared for the rash of injuries to such key cogs to their overall success, nor would any team have been able to survive the loss of so many critical players. But general manager Scott Pioli made it his primary focus to ensure depth would no longer haunt his team.
Be it through free agency or the draft, Pioli systematically brought in players who will have an impact on the Chiefs in 2012 in one way or another—whether as a starter, primary backup or even to split playing time equally at certain positions.
Charles is no stranger to sharing the spotlight in the Chiefs’ backfield.
Although he has been the most productive running back for the Chiefs since being drafted in 2008, Charles rarely started games, and often times, he was given less carries than teammate Thomas Jones.
How many touches should Jamaal Charles see per game, one year removed from tearing an ACL?
It hasn’t affected his numbers however, as Charles has accumulated 3,027 yards on 499 carries while scoring 12 touchdowns, not to mention another 117 receptions for 1,046 yards and six touchdowns in his career.
The premise behind limiting Charles’ exposure was to protect his small frame and keep his legs fresh. But that approach only works until it doesn’t.
Though controlling Charles’ touches didn’t protect his slight stature, fluky injuries happen in the NFL. This validates the Chiefs' approach in bringing him back slowly, resulting in a lesser role than most might want to see going forward.
At face value, it seems obvious that having your best player on the field as much as possible would result in an increased chance at success for not only Charles, but the Chiefs as well. But since he has proven what he is capable of doing with only 12-18 touches per game, there is no telling what an expanded role would actually bring about.
The Chiefs signed Peyton Hillis and drafted Cyrus Gray to add depth in the backfield. As it stands, each player seems to serve their own purpose with Charles still being the featured act.
How the carries will be divided is anyone’s guess, but barring a setback in his recovery, we should see much of what we have grown accustomed to out of Charles—nothing more, nothing less.