When Jamaal Charles was drafted in 2008 very few people in the organization thought he’d turn into the games best running back. However, one person told me shortly after he was drafted that he’d take a little time to develop and once he did - watch out because he’s going to be a player in this league. That person was former Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach, Herm Edwards.
At the University of Texas, Charles had tremendous speed but didn’t quite have the savvy instincts to play the position at the NFL level. Add that with the fact he barely tipped the 200-pound scale coming out of college, Kansas City wasn’t sure what they had in Charles. Complicating things further at the time he was drafted – the teams’ offensive line was heading in the wrong direction.
In 2015, that’s all changed. Charles, despite age, miles and some pretty hard hits, has done the near impossible. Forget the yards, touchdowns and insane plays where he slips through a crease and gashes opponents time and time again or uses his Super Human speed to break away from defenders. The man is a freak of nature on the football field.
“I feel like I am 20, 21,” Charles told the media on Tuesday. “I am doing everything I am supposed to do to keep my body up at age.”
And that everything, has made Charles the best running back in the game today. Sure others have more physical attributes, maybe even faster wheels, but none of them have the intangibles that make Charles such a dynamic offensive player.
Part of that has to do with the fact, since he entered the league in 2008, sports medicine and understanding the human body at the NFL level, has changed significantly.
“They’ve got all kinds of technology now, all kinds of medicine people have come up with to stay healthy,” he said. “At the end of the day, an ACL you couldn’t play (with), it was the end of a career. Now they’ve got all kinds of things that you can be back in like five or four months. It’s just the years are changing, the future is changing, football is changing, sports are just changing.”
The one constant though has been Charles. To sustain his greatness, he’s channeled the ability to play at a high level despite, never having a great offensive line in front of him or consistency at the quarterback position until, Alex Smith, arrived in Kansas City two years ago.
For Charles, despite a heavy workload in the running and passing game, I could argue the man isn’t used enough. The only real criticism I’ve had of Head Coach, Andy Reid, has been his propensity to ignore his running back in key situations in the game.
However, Charles would never question the head coach or criticize the fact in two seasons under this regime, the offensive line play has been horrific.
“I feel so comfortable with that line now. Not saying I didn’t last year, but I feel a lot more comfortable than I did last year,” Charles said.
“I feel like I have a Pro Bowl guard (Ben Grubbs) in front of me and I’ve got Jeff (Allen) back and we went to the playoffs with him. We’ve got Fish (Eric Fisher) who is developing more in his third year, we’ve got Donald and he played a whole season and did a great job when Branden (Albert) and Fish were going at it and battling for depth at the position. So now, I feel way comfortable these guys are getting focused and it’s time to get the step on now.”
That step on, even at the age of 29, still has plenty of gas left in the tank. In fact, Charles seems to thrive on the very fact - running backs can’t be great when they hit this age. Sure, he’s battled nagging injuries, that have put him on the sidelines more than he’d like at this stage of his career, but he never makes excuses.
Nor will Charles ever lay blame on anyone, even when his teammates let him down or injuries force his absence from the lineup, the man takes responsibility for any failures on this team – even if it’s not his job.
”We won nine games last year, so it couldn’t be the team. It was me because I missed a game and I felt like my team needed me. Even though Knile (Davis) did a great job, it just was frustrating getting hurt, that’s the only part,” Charles said.