Running game a problem for the Chiefs

Posted Dec. 09, 2011 @ 2:05 p.m.
Posted By Eli Kaberon

Chiefs head coach Todd Haley has said that the key to his team's offensive success is "running it efficiently and then just figure out a way to turn that into points." However, with its current stable of running backs, the team is having major problems moving the ball on the ground one year after leading the league in rushing yards per game.

Obviously, a major reason for that setback is connected to the loss of RB Jamaal Charles, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week Two. Charles was third in the NFL last season with 1,467 rushing yards, and he has been difficult to replace in the lineup. So, too, has OG Brian Waters, who was released in training camp. The veteran might have lost a step in terms of athleticism, but he is still a strong and physical blocker and was the anchor of the team's offensive line last season.

Since Charles went down, three different players have started at running back for the team. Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster all have their strengths, but none can match the vision and breakaway speed that Charles possesses. That lack of game-breaking ability is why the running game isn't where it needs to be, highlighted by the league-low three rushing touchdowns by the team (one of which was by CB Javier Arenas on a trick play). Jones especially has been disappointing, gaining just three yards per carry, a career-low. One team insider said that it is clear the 33-year-old has, "hit a wall."

Waters' loss hasn't been as large, with second-year OG Jon Asamoah doing a serviceable job as a fill in. However, Waters, who now starts for the Patriots, hid a lot the deficiencies of his linemates with his savvy, and blocking as a whole has been an issue for the Chiefs this season.

We hear the team is well aware of its issues at running back, and it expects to take a player at the position next April in the draft. Charles is expected to be ready for training camp, though there is always a risk for players coming off knee surgery that they might not have the same speed or agility they had before their injury. Jones is a free agent after the season and is expected to sign elsewhere or retire. Meanwhile, both Battle and McCluster will return to complementary roles in the offense.

Follow Eli Kaberon on Twitter