Through all the excitement in Kansas City about the Chiefs' 2-0 start, there has been one topic that seems to have been discussed on every radio show, in every blog column, and in every sports bar.
It is the way Todd Haley has handled the Chiefs running back situation. Who deserves the starting job? Is it the veteran, Thomas Jones or the young gun, Jamaal Charles?
It looks like as of today, the starter is Jones. The young, explosive Charles has accepted his role in coming off the sidelines to start the game. He has still managed to break some plays for big gains despite being given 22 carries to Jones' 33.
Charles exploded in the second half of last season, after the Chiefs traded Larry Johnson and began giving him consistent carries. So, as this year rolled around, people were predicting a Chris Johnson-type season out of the young running back.
He was even scooped up by some people as a first RB option in many fantasy drafts. Now those people are pulling out their hair due to the shenanigans of Chiefs coach Todd Haley.
Charles has remained focused, though. He understands that he and Jones are on the same team, in the end they are both trying to reach the same goal.
"I don't have any complaints," Charles said. "Hey, man, as long as we win games, around here it doesn't matter to me."
This is the outlook the Chiefs need Charles to have on this situation. Many Chiefs fans think Charles needs more touches and they would probably like him to be more outspoken about the issue. But, that is not what he or the team needs right now. They need him to play his role within the team.
Charles is still young, he is still in the process of developing into an NFL running back that can carry the load for a team. He has not been perfect in his time in Kansas City, though he has been impressive.
Jones holds onto the football about as well as any running back in the NFL. He is strong runner, who drives through tacklers. He is exactly who you want to hand the ball to with a lead in the second half.
It is not cut and dry, that Charles simply needs more carries. If it is not going to work as well with the game's strategy, the Chiefs can't force the run with Charles. He is a dynamic runner and I believe he is best used sporadically—when the defense is not preparing for him every play. That is when he comes into the game and busts 56-yard touchdown runs.
Haley seems to feel confident with the gameplan.
"It is in no way a problem for us," said Haley when discussing the issue of carries. "It's easier on some teams. We have a clear-cut plan going in on how we want to do things with each guy. But this is a fluid game, and there are a lot of variables involved." That was Haley's explanation for how he uses the two players.
To me, this explanation makes a lot of sense and provides analysis for why he has made the choices he has in the last two games. Some fans are still convinced that there is some other reason for the lack of carries Charles has received. The truth, however, is that he is not the primary running back option for the Chiefs, at least for the moment, and I'm not so sure this should be looked at as such a bad thing.
Jones is a reliable running back who seems to never get tackled behind the line of scrimmage. He has the patience to wait for his hole to open up, the quickness to hit that hole, and the strength to shake-off tacklers. Jones was third in rushing yards last season, in the entire NFL.
There is no reason to be less than confident about Jones as the prime feature of the Chiefs backfield.
His patient, but physical, style of play creates a smash-mouth running game when he is in the game. That style of play is contrasted by Charles' flat-out speed and quickness. There is difficulty adapting to a fast paced runner while the defense has simply been waiting to hit Jones, wrap him up, and wrestle him to the ground. Now they must all the sudden coral Charles as he darts in and out of blockers.
Maybe, it is just the optimist in me shining through because the Kansas City Chiefs are 2-0, but I love this big "problem" the Chiefs have. What better problem could a team have than to have one of the most multi-dimensional and deep backfields in the NFL.
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