As NFL offenses continue to evolve and the passing game takes on more prevalence, the running back is losing his value. No back has been selected in the first round of the draft in the past two years.
That trend hasn’t reached Kansas City and the Chiefs, at least when it comes to the value of the featured back. The Chiefs celebrate their backs, who are as important as ever to Kansas City’s offensive fortunes.
The Chiefs realize this. They recently gave a contract extension to running back Jamaal Charles, who led the Chiefs in rushing, pass receiving and touchdowns last season. Despite the presence of Charles, the Chiefs drafted a running back in each of the past three years and two of them, Knile Davis and rookie De’Anthony Thomas, join Charles as Kansas City’s preeminent big-play threats.
So excuse Charles if he takes offense at the notion that running backs just aren’t as important as they once were.
“I don’t think it’s changed,’’ he said. “I think it depends on what style of running back you have. You can have a power back, [but] there are a lot of power backs [who] can’t catch the ball. Or you can have a skilled back [who] is an athlete, can run and catch the ball like a wide receiver. I think that can bring the game back.
“I think running back is the most important [position] on the field because we pick up the blitz, we run the ball, and we catch the ball. So I think we do more than the wide receivers, O-line, and maybe the quarterback. So I think the running back job is really important.”
Charles’ role was even important for the Chiefs in last year’s preseason opener against the Saints in New Orleans. He got the ball eight times, five times on a handoff and three as a receiver and scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run.
But that was the Chiefs' first season under Andy Reid, and they were still trying to find themselves an identity. Charles may not get as much work Thursday night when the Chiefs open their preseason, this time at Arrowhead Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Whatever the coaches do, I’m all with it,’’ Charles said. “If I have to play, I have to play. It’s my job to play football.
“Whatever the coaches think I need . . . I guess I’ve got to go out there and do it. I can’t complain. I’m not going to be selfish. I’m going to do what they tell me.’’