JAMAAL CHARLES DOES NOT HAVE A FACEBOOK PROFILE, BUT HE IS AWARE OF TWO GROUPS—TWO!—ON THE SOCIAL-NETWORKING SITE THAT SHARE THE SAME NAME AND THE SAME MISSION: FREE JAMAAL CHARLES. ACCORDING TO A DESCRIPTION OF ONE of the groups, it is intended "for those of us who CLEARLY know more [than] the Chiefs do (about running backs at least), and believe JC should be the starter and getting the majority of the carries."
For the record the speedy running back does receive more touches than any other Kansas City player, but nonetheless the groups' message is clear: JC needs the rock more. It's a point that Charles's fantasy owners have been trying to make for at least two years now.
In 2009 the Chiefs' runner became the only back in NFL history to rush for more than 1,100 yards with 200 or fewer carries. (He had 190.) Last season Charles nearly broke Jim Brown's single-season record for yards per rush, with a 6.38 average, but ran the ball only 230 times while splitting the carries with 32-year-old Thomas Jones, who had 245. Despite the shared workload, Charles generated 1,935 yards from scrimmage and scored eight touchdowns, establishing himself as one of the league's elite running backs.
Like his fantasy owners, Charles too would like to get the ball more. He spent part of his off-season running sprints with the track team at his alma mater, Texas, knowing that—since he has been very productive with a limited amount of carries—his number might be called more this season.
But, as he points out, more touches may not necessarily be the best strategy for his body, which he says often drops to 205 pounds by the end of the season. "I'd like to stay healthy," he says. "Right now I feel real good after some games. My body doesn't feel beat up, so I can go into the next week prepared. I can better produce for my team."
He adds, "If I get the ball 25 times a game, I might have some crazy numbers, but my average might not be that good."
It is uncertain whether Charles will see more action in 2011. Jones, who is the main goal line back, remains in Kansas City, and the Chiefs have a new offensive coordinator in Bill Muir. Regardless of whether Charles handles the ball more, he should be welcome on any fantasy team. At 24 he's improving and has many miles left on his legs. He has also shown durability, missing only one game in three seasons, and that wasn't even because of an injury.
Charles provides the extra benefit of being productive in the passing game; he caught 45 balls (15th best among running backs) last season for 468 yards (ninth). Yet he attributes much of that success to then offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who left Kansas City after the season to coach at Florida. Weis is known for calling passes to his running backs. Now the Chiefs' offense will operate under Muir, who was promoted from offensive line coach. Head coach Todd Haley, who called the plays in 2009, may once again play a significant role in what plays are run.
"Weis is a genius," Charles says. "I hope we can keep some of the stuff he left and go from there."
Charles's owners are hoping for that too—as well as for a few more carries.