The bad news keeps on flowing for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs have been blown out in their first two games and this week lost the services of running back Jamaal Charles for the remainder of the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Charles becomes the third key Chiefs player lost to a season-ending knee injury, following tight end Tony Moeaki and safety Eric Berry.
After scoring just ten total points in their first two games and given up a staggering 89 in losses to Buffalo and Detroit, Kansas City will now have to regroup on offense without the services of Charles, their most explosive playmaker.
Charles is coming off a superb 2010 campaign in which he established himself as one of the top running backs in the league by rushing for 1,467 yards and five touchdowns on just 230 carries and catching 45 passes for 468 yards and another three touchdowns.
Kansas City’s current backup running backs include Thomas Jones, 2010 2nd round pick Dexter McCluster and fourth-year veteran Jackie Battle. Fullback LeRon McClain could also see some carries, reprising the hybrid role he played for several years in Baltimore before signing with the Chiefs this past offseason.
Charles owners are left in a quandary because there’s simply no way to replace a player of his caliber without sacrificing major components of your roster in a trade. The biggest problem stems from the Chiefs struggles on offense, rendering whoever fills in for Charles unlikely to be starter worthy.
Look for Jones to assume the majority of the carries. Unfortunately, the veteran does not appear to have much left in the tank after averaging just 3.7 yards per carry last season, a surprisingly low figure considering Charles averaged 6.4 playing in the same offense.
In addition, he appeared to slow down as the season wore on so the Chiefs are unlikely to ask him to carry too big of a load in replacing Charles.
That spells running back by committee with McCluster assuming a change of pace and receiving role. He was a disappointment as a rookie in 2010, failing to stay healthy or register many big plays in the base offense. He is too small to fulfill the lead back role and lacks top end speed. My gramma told me not to say to anything if I couldn’t say something nice. How about teams don’t start smurfs who aren’t REALLY FAST? I hope she’s not turning in her grave.
As for the remaining options, Battle has been unable to carve out even a marginal role during his four years in the league and McClain last saw success as a running back during the 2008 season.
While Charles owners should definitely grab Jones and McCluster, options outside of the Chiefs should also be considered. Two early season surprises at running back include Danny Woodhead of the Patriots and Darren Sproles of the Saints, a pair of players whose roles appear to be greater than what was anticipated heading into the season.
On the Chiefs, the player whose value goes up the most with Charles out is wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. He is the team’s second most talented playmaker on offense and figures to see plenty of targets with the Chiefs looking like a team that will regularly be playing from behind.