Does anyone remember when the Kansas City Chiefs were actually exciting? Believe it or not, there was a time – and not that long ago – when Chiefs’ players were making highlight reel plays nearly every Sunday. If it wasn’t Priest Holmes running wild and setting scoring records, it was Dante Hall acting like the human video game returning every ball kicked his way for a score. Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, those glory days are quickly becoming a distant memory. But for the first time in a long time the Chiefs may have a couple of sparkplugs in the backfield that might actually be worth watching. The position battle between Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones gives football fans a reason to watch Kansas City games again, aside from checking to see how many turnovers the Chiefs coughed up to your fantasy football defense.
Last season, after the Chiefs parted ways with Larry Johnson, Jamaal Charles came on strong in a big way. Out from underneath the shadow of Johnson, Charles proved to be a more than capable starter. Over the course of the last eight games of the season, Charles In Charge ran for more than 950 yards and seven scores. That puts him with the elite company of Mr. 2,000 Yards – Chris Johnson. Project Charles’ numbers out over the course of an entire season and he starts to look even more like CJ. In 2010 Jamaal Charles will finally have the opportunity to shine by leading the Chiefs backfield. Well, sort of.
Charles may be the clear favorite to secure the starting gig, but Thomas Jones is no joke. Last season with the Jets Jones racked up 1,402 yards on a massive 331 carries. That’s not too shabby for a 30 something running back, but what is probably more impressive are the 14 touchdowns Jones punched in for Gang Green. For any doubters who think that Jones was putting up inflated walk year numbers last season, just look at his 2008 stat line. That season Jones put up even better numbers with more than 1,500 all purpose yards and 15 scores. Clearly, 2009 was no fluke. But, can he duplicate that performance running behind KC’s offensive line? Perhaps not, but he would be a solid starter for many teams and is a proven threat to pound in the ball from the red zone.
Given the talent and proven nature of Thomas Jones, he is likely to cut into Charles’ carries. The possibility exists that Jones could even wrestle the starting job away outright should Charles falter out of the gate. Second year head coach Todd Haley has attempted to downplay this scenario as less than a position battle, but there can be little doubt that both backs will being working hard to showcase their skills throughout training camp and the pre-season. They will both jump at the chance to make their cases for playing time. That makes this position battle one to watch during the pre-season and throughout the regular season as well.
Despite their obvious benefits each back has drawbacks as well. Thomas Jones will be 32-years old at the start of the season, and brings a lot of mileage on those veteran legs. Over the past three seasons he has accumulated 931 rushes, and all the wear and tear that goes with that. As Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star points out, Charles is a much younger back at just 23-years old, even though he has been criticized for not having the size to be an “every-down back.” Together, however, the team has the complete package.
The good news for Kansas City is that there is a formidable one-two punch in the backfield. ESPN.com’s John Clayton compared the duo to the powerful Carolina Panthers tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. At the very least each back serves as an insurance policy for the other. Should one rusher go down due to an injury, the other has proven capable of shouldering a team load of carries on his own. But should they both remain healthy the Chiefs will have a ground attack that will be hard for defensive coordinators to stop, and that is exactly what new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is counting on. Weis is aware that he has two starters in his backfield, and he will use them accordingly to keep the ground game progressing to keep opposing defenses honest about the passing game.
Normally Kansas City wouldn’t even be a blip on my radar, but the talent of these two backs has caught my attention and figures to intrigue over the next month or two. There might even be a Pro Bowl performance between the two of them. It will all depend on how Haley and Weis use their stud running backs.