Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is known for having a pass-happy offense. You would think that would be bad news for running back Jamaal Charles and good news for quarterback Alex Smith, but that’s not necessarily true.
As I’ve broken down previously, the additional passes shouldn’t be an issue for Smith, because they will function like a run plays. That still leaves us with the question of how Reid’s offense might impact Charles. How good Charles can be is going to depend on his ability to produce in the passing game—that’s where he’s going to get more opportunities.
Evidence suggests that Reid could be a great thing for Charles just because of the way he will be utilized.
One thing is certain: Jamaal Charles will be heavily involved in the offense.
The LeSean McCoy Comparison
LeSean McCoy was Andy Reid’s featured running back with the Philadelphia Eagles for the past three years, and he also had a significant role during his rookie season of 2009. When comparing McCoy and Charles, you really start to get an idea of how good Charles could be in Reid’s offense.
In the last four years, Charles has actually carried the ball just 0.2 more times per game than McCoy did over the same span. However, McCoy averaged 18.6 fewer yards per game, because Charles averaged 1.2 more yards per carry.
If Reid simply uses Charles the same way he did McCoy, Charles would only get roughly three fewer carries throughout the season. Basically, Charles’ production in the run game wouldn’t be changed much in Reid’s offense.
Reid does pass more overall, but Charles will be getting a bigger slice of a smaller pie of carries, so the net result should be about the same. McCoy has averaged 54.2 percent of the carries when he is healthy, compared to 47.7 percent for Charles over the same time period. McCoy’s percentage has been minimized by all the carries quarterback Michael Vick has put up over the last few years.
Since Charles also appears to be a better running back than McCoy on a per-carry basis and Smith isn’t nearly the kind of running quarterback that Vick is, it would be silly for Reid not to give Charles the vast majority of the carries.
If there is any real change in the way Charles is used, it’s going to be in the passing game. McCoy has averaged 1.2 more receptions per game than Charles since 2009.
However, the stats don’t support the argument that McCoy is actually a better receiver that would merit that extra usage in the passing game.
Charles has averaged 8.4 yards per catch in his career, while McCoy has averaged 7.2 yards per catch. The easy conclusion to make is that Charles is the all-around superior running back, but McCoy has actually received one additional touch per game since 2009, which has come in the form of a reception.
At 8.4 yards per catch over a 16-game season, Charles should produce, roughly, 134.4 more yards through the air on average. In total, Charles would have gained 115.8 more total yards from scrimmage on average had he played in Reid’s offense and had the same role as McCoy.
Charles appears to be a superior receiver to McCoy, so Reid may also give him more looks in the passing game than he did McCoy.
It’s worth noting that the Eagles had receivers like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and tight end Brent Celek, while Dwayne Bowe might be the only receiver in Kansas City who is superior to that quartet.
How Good Can He Be?
Assume for a second that Charles can simply hit his career averages in yards per carry and yards per reception and that he gets 21.3 touches per game like McCoy has the last two years. Let’s also assume that Charles will have an 82-18 attempt-to-reception ratio like McCoy has the last two years.
Using these assumptions, Charles could produce 1,627 rushing yards and 507 receiving yards in a 16-game season. That’s 2,134 total yards from scrimmage, and there’s no reason these assumptions aren’t completely realistic.
Keep in mind that merely by using Charles’ career averages to make a projection, he could become just the 41st running back to have over 2,100 yards from scrimmage. On the list is Brian Westbrook, who accomplished it in 2007 under Reid.
Charles has also produced even better than his career averages in the past, so he might have a chance to become just the third running back to have over 2,400 yards from scrimmage. Everything would have to go right for Charles, but it’s not a totally crazy thought either.
Although Reid might call more pass plays, it’s highly unlikely that his offense will hurt Charles. If anything, Reid’s offense could turn Charles loose on the NFL.