Can Jamaal Charles Replicate A Historic 2013?
By Eric Paolini
Jamaal Charles was the most important player on the Kansas City Chiefs last season. No other Chief had the impact he had. Surely, Charles will be the focal point of the offense again in 2014. The level of dominance he achieved last season will be difficult to replicate.
Throughout 2013, Charles was Kansas City’s offense. Everything ran through him. He’s been brilliant running the ball before. Charles’ nearly 1,300 yards rushing were a surprise to none, but in Andy Reid’s offense, Charles blossomed as a pass catcher as well. After freshly inking an enormous extension, Dwayne Bowe submitted a stinker of a season, and Charles was thankfully up to the task of taking up the slack.
Plenty of running backs have an impact in the receiving game, but few have as great of an impact while simultaneously being the team’s feature back. Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead are special out of the backfield on pass plays, but neither of them is ever going to get close to leading the league in rushing. That was Charles in 2013: the best receiving back while being one of the best backs at running the ball.
In 2013, Charles finished the season with 1,287 rushing yards and 693 receiving yards. Rushing for nearly 1,300 yards is respectable enough, but Charles also had a major impact in the receiving game as Alex Smith’s most reliable weapon. Charles led the Chiefs in both receptions and receiving yards and was second in targets trailing Bowe by only one (105-104).
It isn’t a regular occurrence for a running back to have nearly 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards while being very impactful in both aspects of the game. Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there have been only 10 instances in which a player had at least 1,300 rushing yards and 700 receiving yards. (Technically, Charles’ season in 2013 wouldn’t qualify because he was just short of both targets. However, had he not been rested in Week 17, Charles could have easily hit the targets in the first quarter. Instead of adjusting the minimum threshold to what Charles actually did, I bumped it up by 20 yards to use easier numbers.)
Using 1,300 rushing yards and 700 receiving yards as the two marks is pretty arbitrary. A player who rushes for 1,400 yards and receives 600 yards is just as impressive and dominant in both aspects. When changing the search criteria, those measurements (something Charles definitely doesn’t qualify for, but is also combined 2,000 yards), the number of instances grows by nine. Add another 13 instances when adjusted to 1,500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards.
In total, there have been only 31 occurrences of a player amassing 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards with a minimum of 500 receiving yards since the merger. This achievement happens less than once per year. Even if completely ignoring the ’70s —the first occurrence was in 1981 — the average is still less than once a year.
When a really good player is putting together a phenomenal season, that player is expected to get the ball more. In 2013, the Chiefs certainly gave Charles the ball as much as they could. Charles set a career high in touches last season. Moreover, Charles was by far and away Kansas City’s most impactful offensive player. Charles was responsible for 37 percent of the Chiefs’ yardage in 2013. That was by far the best among running backs in 2013. LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte, who each had 32 percent of their team’s yardage, were second. No other running back topped 30 percent.
This puts the Chiefs’ offense in a somewhat precarious position. Unless other players are able to contribute more, or Charles is able to replicate a very hard feat, the Chiefs’ offense may not be quite as dynamic. It’s difficult to expect Charles to replicate the feat in 2014. Eight players have done it multiple times, including Marshall Faulk accomplishing the feat four times in a row. It’s certainly possible that Charles does it again in 2014, however, it’s just unlikely.