Jamaal Charles was the most talented player on the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs—and it wasn't even close. When the final whistle blew on the Chiefs' 2013 season, Charles accounted for nearly 40 percent of the entire team's offense.
Don't believe me? The numbers don't lie.
In 2013, the Chiefs put up 5,395 yards of offense. Jamaal Charles finished the season with 1,287 rushing yards and another 693 receiving yards. He led the team in both categories. Those numbers were good for 36.7 percent of the team's total yards.
Charles finished the year as the leading rusher in the AFC and the second leading rusher in the NFL. The only running back who beat him was the Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy, who ran for 1,607 yards. The argument could be made that McCoy beat out Charles for the rushing title only because he played a full 16 games, whereas Charles played only 15 because Chiefs head coach Andy Reid decided to sit his starters in Week 17. That extra game, plus an average of two-and-a-half extra carriers per game—19.6 per game for McCoy compared to 17.3 per game for Charles—gave McCoy the edge.
Football, more than any other sport, is designed to be a complete team sport. No one player should ever be responsible for that much of the team's total production. It's just not supposed to work that way.
When you look at everything else that was happening with the Chiefs as a team last season, Charles' success in 2013 makes even less sense.
During the entire season, the Chiefs offense line was never set. From the Week 1 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars through Charles' final appearance in the Week 16 game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Kansas City offensive line saw two different left tackles, two different right guards and two different right tackles. Due to injuries and instances such as former starter Jon Asamoah losing his job to Geoff Schwartz, the line never solidified itself.
Still, Charles excelled, but can he put in a repeat performance?
Coming off the best season of his career in both total yardage and touchdowns, the target on Charles' back is quite visible.
While there's not a doubt across the NFL that Charles is among the top trio of running backs—likely in a bit of a three-way tie with McCoy and Minnesota Vikings powerhouse Adrian Peterson—Charles isn't getting any younger. Huge questions remain for him moving forward.
The first, and most important, is how much tread is left on the tires? Getting ready to enter his seventh season in the league and having missed the entire 2011 season due to a torn ACL tendon, Charles isn't only racing against linebackers and defensive backs, but Father Time as well. Having turned 27 in December, the Chiefs' primary weapon has entered that "no-man's land" for NFL running backs where a decline becomes evident.
The second question regarding Charles putting up huge numbers again would be how much opposing defenses will allow him to do so. This won't be as much of a concern for the one-man wrecking crew, because frankly they haven't been able to stop him yet.
Charles became the Chiefs' premier starting back in 2009 following the early departure of Larry Johnson from the team after he tweeted out disparaging remarks about his coach, Todd Haley.
One tweet read: "My father got more creditentials than most of these pro coaches." That was followed by: "My father played for the coach from "rememeber the titans". Our coach played golf. My father played for redskins briefley. Our coach. Nuthn."
Since then—and including 2009 when Charles started only 10 games—he has recorded a 1,000-yard season every year. The only exception would be 2011, when he spent the entire season on injured reserve.
Now on his fourth head coach and sixth offensive scheme, those concerns of him slowing down have still never materialized.
Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey don't seem to be too concerned about Charles' decline. Still, in two drafts with the Chiefs, the duo have selected a running back two years in a row. Last year, the team selected former Arkansas Razorback rusher Knile Davis in the third round, and then picked up De'Anthony "The Black Momba" Thomas from Oregon in the 2014 draft.
Does this give an indication that Reid is planning on using Charles less while rotating other backs into the system?
If last year is any indication, signs point to "no."
In 2014, the entire Chiefs offense combined for a total of 442 rushing attempts. With 259, Charles had nearly 60 percent of those himself. Of the remaining attempts, 90 were attributed to quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Alex Smith, and another 12 were by wide receivers on gimmick plays. That leaves only 81 rushes by other running backs, Davis, Cyrus Gray and fullback Anthony Sherman.
This ratio of attempts by Charles compared to the rest of his team doesn't indicate Reid is prepared to put his star player on the bench anytime soon. But, is that smartest move?
When Charles was injured just six plays into the AFC Wild Card matchup between the Chiefs and Colts this past January, many Chiefs fans thought the game was over right then. Nobody expected the Kansas City offense to be able to produce without the player who had carried the team through most of the regular season. Still, despite an epic second-half defensive collapse and the loss of several other key players, the Chiefs lost the game by only one single point.
Knile Davis proved in that playoff game that he can be a dangerous player both on the ground out of the backfield as well as in the passing game, just like his mentor, Charles. Prior to going out with his own injury, Davis compiled 100 yards from scrimmage, 67 rushing and 33 receiving, as well as two touchdowns to lead the Chiefs.
If Reid decided to slide the run-ratio bar just a hair toward Davis, the Chiefs could truly have a two-headed monster in their backfield.
Last year, that ratio sat at 76 percent for Charles and 20 percent for Davis, with the remaining 4 percent going to Sherman and Gray. If Reid were able to just slide Davis another 10 percent, that could leave Charles a bit more fresh in the later stages of games, which could prove to be the difference in the Chiefs winning or losing.
Regardless, as of yet, Charles is showing no indication that he's slowing down. Heading into the 2014 season, Charles still has the best yards-per-carry average in the history of the NFL at 5.8. If he can maintain that pace, there'll be no more talk of guys like Peterson and McCoy as the best running back in the league. Charles will finally be in charge.