It seems like ages ago when the Kansas City Chiefs were depending on Larry Johnson as their running back. After the successes he accomplished in Kansas City, it is hard to believe that, in only one full season, Johnson has been completely replaced and wiped from the minds of Kansas City fans.
That is just how good Jamaal Charles is.
Charles got his first shot at starting in 2009, replacing Johnson during a suspension and subsequent release. Since then, Charles has quickly become one of the most successful backs in Chiefs history. Last season saw Charles be named an All-Pro and Fed-Ex Ground Player of the Year, with Charles totaling 1,467 yards on only 230 carries, recording one of the best rushing averages in NFL history with 6.4 yards per carry.
After flying under the radar for his first NFL season, those days are over for Charles, replaced with extreme expectations for the 2011 season. The expectations are high—not just in Kansas City, but throughout the NFL.
It will not be easy, but Jamaal Charles will meet these expectations.
There are a lot of things that could cause a person to doubt whether Charles will continue to have success in 2011. The main one would be Charles’ preseason performance.
Charles has carried the ball of total of 15 times, only gaining 35 yards on the preseason. His 2.3 yards-per-carry average is far from the spectacular numbers that are expected from Charles.
First of all, we must remember it is the preseason. Charles’ carries have come when many starters were out of the game. When you have an All-Pro running back in the backfield and a quarterback like Tyler Palko behind center, the chances that Charles will get his hands on the ball are very strong. The defenses can count on that, shutting him down more quickly than they would in the regular season.
There really is not even a reason to doubt Charles. Only 24 years old, Charles has succeeded every chance he has gotten in the NCAA and, now, in the NFL.
His incredible success last season came because of a running style that utilized both Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles. With the same running style that Charles used to success last season still in place, there really is no reason to doubt that he will continue to carry the ball effectively.
One of the major factors that could cause his production to slow is the offensive line. While the preseason is not the best way to measure the talent that Kansas City has there, it is obvious that this will be a bit of an issue this season. They have not been dominating, allowing the opposing defensive rush into the backfield very easily.
While the line has had its issues in the preseason, the addition of Le’Ron McClain at fullback should give Charles a good amount of blocking downfield, allowing for additional yardage. This will help combat any loss of quality on the offensive line.
Of course, the X-factor when it comes to Jamaal Charles is his ball handling. Charles has had fumbling issues in the past, nearly losing playing time in college because of the problem.
While he has curbed this issue in the NFL, this preseason has seen him fumble more times in very limited playing time than he did all of last season. That is worrisome for a Chiefs team that was able to take advantage of a plus-nine turnover ratio last season. With a schedule this difficult, every turnover could carry extra meaning.
If Charles is able to hang onto the ball, there is no reason he should not match his production from last season.
There is no denying that Jamaal Charles is that good.