When the Kansas City Chiefs signed running back Thomas Jones to a two-year, $5 million deal last year, they wanted some of Jones’ experience and work ethic to help mentor young running back Jamaal Charles and to keep him fresh.
Kansas City Chiefs
It worked in the first year of the combination, in which Kansas City led the NFL in rushing. Jones had 896 yards on 245 carries. Charles had 1,467 yards (the second most in the league) on 230 carries.
Recently, Kansas City coach Todd Haley said Jones will be brought back in 2011.
“I couldn’t be more excited about what Thomas Jones has brought to this team both as a player and as a leader,” Haley said. “He’s the epitome of the same guy every day. We’ve got a little plan for Thomas that I’m excited about getting to. I’m excited to have Thomas back. He’s a big part of what we’re doing.”
Yet, the Chiefs may have to be prepared to give Charles a bigger role. Jones will turn 33 in August. He didn’t have more than 68 yards in the final six games of the regular season. His per carry average was 3.4 or fewer in five of those games. Jones had 15 yards on five carries in a playoff loss to Baltimore.
Jones will be faced with the challenge of age moving forward. According to Jason Vida of ESPN Stats & Information, only three running backs in NFL history have rushed for at least 1,000 yards in a season when they were 33 or older on December 31st of that year. The last to do it was John Riggins in 1984 when he ran for 1,239 yards at the age of 35.
Jones should still be able to help keep Kansas City’s ground game elite in 2011, but his late 2010 slide and history at the position is further evidence that it is time to give Charles a bigger role in the offense.