The Chiefs' worst fears were confirmed on Monday after an MRI revealed that All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles suffered a torn ACL against the Detroit Lions.
The injury occurred when Charles slipped on a downs marker while running out of bounds and fell awkwardly into the Lions' mascot. The Chiefs' running back was carted off the field after collapsing on the sideline for several minutes. Detroit would go on to win the game in a blowout, dropping Kansas City’s record to 0-2.
Charles is the third Chiefs' starter to suffer a season-ending injury early in the 2011 campaign.
Safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki are already on the injured reserve list after suffering ACL injuries this year.
With the injury to Charles, Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster will be vying for playing time at the running back position. Each player saw reps against the Lions after Charles was injured.
Both runners can expect to see playing time going forward in an effort to fill the void left by the star running back.
At 32, Jones is playing in his twelfth season in the NFL and is in his second year with the Chiefs. While splitting time with Charles last season, Jones had 15 more rushing attempts.
The veteran has run for 899 yards on 247 attempts, with six rushing touchdowns during his time in Kansas City.
Through two years in the league, McCluster has seen limited action, mostly appearing on special teams. McCluster has been very efficient despite limited playing time, running for 5.5 yards per carry with 30 receptions through 13 professional games.
The former Ole Miss standout is a similar athlete to Charles, but lacks size, which creates questions about his ability as a starter.
Kansas City has struggled on both sides of the ball this season. Thus far, quarterback Matt Cassel has thrown four interceptions compared to just one touchdown.
Cassel’s struggles have also hurt wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. The former Pro-Bowler has just seven catches for 118 yards. The offense has managed to score only 10 points, a league worst.
The team has looked just as bad on the other side of the ball without Eric Berry. The defense has allowed 387.5 yards per game on the way to a league worst 89 points allowed.
Obviously, this is not how the defending AFC West champions wanted to start the 2011 campaign.
In a season that is beginning to spiral out of control, the remaining Kansas City running backs will need to perform well in order to take pressure off Cassel and a struggling defense.