While the perception may be that Charles performs better with a complementary back keeping his number of touches down, he succeeded with a career-high workload in 2012.
Charles had 285 carries—which eclipsed his previous career high of 275 touches in 2010—for 1,509 yards and five touchdowns. He added 35 receptions for 236 yards and another score.
His average yards per carry, while still very impressive, was a career-worst 5.29. Whether that was a product of his torn ACL in 2011 or a usage rate that he had never experienced in the NFL is anyone’s guess.
It was likely a combination of the two.
There’s still plenty of optimism for the 26-year-old’s productivity under Reid. Adrian Peterson aside, we look to an athlete’s second year removed from ACL surgery to gauge the extent of his return.
He’s missed a total of 15 games in his career; 14 came after he shredded his knee two seasons ago. Otherwise, Charles has been more than capable of remaining available to the Chiefs regardless of workload.
Coach Reid has a history of working his primary running backs, so that’s good.
Between LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook, Reid has had at least one running back top 18 touches per game in eight of the last nine seasons. The only year that it didn’t occur was 2009—McCoy’s first (and Westbrook’s last) with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Either Westbrook or McCoy got more than 21 touches per game in five of the Eagles’ last seven campaigns.
Charles took exactly 20 per appearance in 2012.
Reid isn’t only interested in handing the ball off to his talented backs. Excluding 2009, McCoy and Westbrook averaged 4.8 grabs per contest since 2004. Despite Charles’ 120 receptions in his last three full seasons, Reid thinks he can use him in ways that until now he hasn’t been utilized. Per ESPN’s Bill Williamson, Reid mentioned on Mar. 19:
I [looked at old film] just to see how [Charles] handled the quick passing game or the deep passing game from the wide receiver position. He handled it well. So that gives you another dimension that you know is in there that he wasn’t utilized … they just didn’t use it in him the last couple years.
Charles may not see 20 carries per game under his new head coach because the prior running backs under Reid didn’t. His skills match the Reid rushers of yesteryear, however, so Charles getting 20 touches a week seems to be nearly a lock.
Workloads don't get much more volatile than that of Charles’ in 2012. He received more than 30 touches three times and failed to top 12 in three games.
Jamaal averaged 35 touches in Chiefs wins last season. He had almost half that in their losses (17.9).
Kansas City shouldn’t be scrambling to add someone in hopes of saving Charles some wear and tear. He’s already shown that his ACL injury couldn't derail him from being one of the game’s top all around running backs.