The Chiefs need to get running back Jamaal Charles back on the field. He tore his ACL last year, and he hasn’t yet been activated. The running back duties have gone to Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West while he gets back to 100 percent.
With those two in the game, the Chiefs are as average as it gets in terms of rushing yards. With two games down, they rank 15th in the NFL. They’re averaging 101.0 rushing yards per game. The longest rush on the year is 28 yards.
This isn’t an offense that needs to be explosive, though. They can control the clock and play good, turnover-free football. It led to 11-straight wins last year, and it’s their best chance to win in 2016.
But the real stat that is telling comes from the Texans’ game. Ware had 57 yards and West had 61. Those are good numbers, a nice even split on the ground. The problem, though, is that neither back scored at all. The Chiefs were forced to kick four field goals, and they lost to the Texans, despite only giving up 19 points.
Yards aren’t enough.
Ware has scored once on the season, and West hasn’t scored at all. It’s one thing to help move the ball up and down the field; it’s quite another to put six points on the scoreboard. At some point, the running back has to score. If it can’t, it really shows how badly Kansas City needs Charles back.
In 2013, Charles scored 12 touchdowns. He had nine in 2014. Last year, he had four in just five games – terrific production for a back – before he tore his ACL.
Charles knows how to find the endzone. He’s the type of back who can take over games. He’s been doing it for years. As good as West and Ware have been — and this isn’t on knock them — but they have not shown that they can get the same thing done this year. Not yet. Getting Charles back could give the Chiefs something of a spark and help this offense really do what it needs to do.
Remember, the passing game didn’t score on the Texans, either. With a stagnant offense, the team needs someone to step up. Charles is that type of player. He’s the only true offensive superstar they have.
So, how close is he? It’s hard to tell. Head coach Andy Reid recently said:
“Jamaal is improving by the day. We’ll just keep him going, see how he does this week. He’s champing at the bit and wants to play, which I love about him. I just want to make sure we’re good there. I think the longer you can wait with him, the better it is. Even though, I think he probably thought he could go play today, or tomorrow or whatever. So, we’ll just see how this week goes and another week is going to help him. We’ll just see. We’ll see how he does this week.”
Certainly, that makes it sound as if he’s very close and could even play this week. He certainly wants to, and the Chiefs have to be thinking about it, coming off of a loss to the Texans and going up against a stout Jets’ defense.However, Reid is being careful, and he has the final say.
He knows that he’ll need Charles the most down the stretch. He doesn’t want to risk rushing him back too soon and making things worse. This is Charles’ second torn ACL, after all, and tearing it again could mean not just the end of the season, but of his career. They don’t really want him back until they know he’s 100 percent, giving them the best chance of having him late in the year and in the postseason, should they make it.
While that’s smart, there’s a fine line to be walked here. The Chiefs want to be careful. They don’t want to rush injured players. At the same time, if the team is losing without the star running back and the offense can’t get anyone in the endzone, there’s also a point where they just must have him on the field.