Forget About LJ: Jamaal Charles Is the Real Deal in Kansas City

James AdkinsCorrespondent IINovember 15, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 15:  Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs breaks through on his way to scoring a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 15, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Dear Chiefs fans, forget Larry Johnson.

Two weeks ago, it became clear that Johnson would never play another game for the Kansas City Chiefs. What wasn't so clear was who would replace him as the starter in the Chiefs' backfield.

Kansas City's stable of running backs is a who's-who of mid-round draft picks that includes former college standouts Jamaal Charles, Kolby Smith, and Dantrell Savage.

Charles entered last week's game in Jacksonville as the starter, but many assumed that Smith would soon replace him, or at least take a majority of his carries away.

But two games into the post-Johnson era it has become abundantly clear who the Chiefs' feature running back is.

That back is Jamaal Charles.

Charles' versatility as a runner and receiver has made him the Chiefs' most dangerous player offensively. In the past two games, Charles has been the team's most productive player:

  • 24 rushes for 139 yards (5.8 yards per rush), and 1 touchdown
  • 7 receptions for 33 yards (4.7 yards per catch)

Compare that to Smith's paltry 2.2 yards per rush on 13 carries, and one catch for 4 yards, and it's obvious who provides the Chiefs' offense with the best chance to win.

On Sunday, Charles was key to Kansas City's win over the Raiders.

He rushed for 103 yards, including his first career touchdown on a 44-yard burst in the second quarter on a 4th-and-1 play.

Charles was also the team's second-leading receiver, catching four balls out of the backfield for 14 yards.

It couldn't be more clear to coach Todd Haley who he should start at running back for the remainder of this season, a seven game stretch that includes four games against three of the league's toughest run defenses in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Denver (twice).

It may be too much to expect Charles to post huge rushing days against those defenses, but his role in the passing game will be vital if the Chiefs' offense is going to be successful.

Throw in back-to-back home games in December against the league's worst rush defenses in Cleveland and Buffalo, and Charles should have plenty of opportunities to show Chiefs fans what he can do.

And while Charles won't be able to lead this team to a spot in the playoffs this season, he can do one more thing that's almost as important: make everyone in Kansas City forget about Larry Johnson .

That is, if he hasn't done that already.