The Kansas City Chiefs’ roster review focuses on the running back spot today. Links to the previous posts covering both lines, the secondary and quarterback are below. For those new to the format, the Chiefs’ personnel is compared to that of AFC West opponents.
No team is deeper or more talented at running back in the AFC West than Kansas City. Jamaal Charles missed almost all of this season, but is expected back for 2012, and the young back delivered a 1,120 yard season in 2009 and went off for 1400-plus in the division title campaign of 2010. ESPN’s Scouts Inc, loves his explosion through the hole, which makes up for his being slightly undersized. Charles is also an effective receiver.
Jackie Battle was thrust into a bigger role than is ideal. He averaged 4 ypg this past season, but all things being equal, you would prefer for him not to be the main back. With Charles coming back he won’t have to, and Kansas City will have an effective #2 runner. And if that’s not enough, Dexter McCluster has game-changing capability when he get the ball in space. The 23-year old has work to do in terms of getting more polished in finding the hole and running pass routes, but with a deep backfield in front of him, he’s got time work that out. Thomas Jones was a perfect fit in 2010 as the number two back behind Charles when he compiled nearly 900 yards, but injuries slowed him in 2011 and as a free agent, he doesn’t appear likely to be back.
Denver showed its own depth at the position when Knowshon Moreno went down and Williis McGahee stepped up with almost 1,200 yards. But this was McGahee’s first productive year since 2007 and he is 30 years old. Can he really be expected to do it again? And Moreno, after a productive rookie season in 2009, has declined each year since due to injury problems. Denver’s got some issues here that deserve talking about, although that would prevent a 24-hour talk radio obsession with Tim Tebow.
San Diego got Ryan Mathews established as their main back this year after nagging injuries limited him in 2010. Mathews ran for 1,019 yards and will be a reliable back in the Charger offense, but whether he’s durable enough to be the featured back in an offense that really relies on the running game is another matter.
Oakland could have a devastating 1-2 punch with Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. McFadden is explosive, both on cutback runs and as a receiver, while Bush can muscle between the tackles. The latter showed he could handle featured back duties when injuries limited McFadden to seven games, but this offense won’t find its potential unless McFadden stays healthy. Next year will be a key checkpoint in his career to see if 2011 was bad luck, of the player just lacks durability.