Talk about a win-win for the Chiefs.
When it comes to Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs would love to see their career rushing leader, who holds the NFL record for average yards per carry among running backs, return to action.
But it’s unlikely to happen Sunday when the Chiefs meet the Jets at Arrowhead Stadium. Charles is listed as doubtful to play in the 3:25 p.m. game.
It’s been 11 1/2 months since Charles tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and the Chiefs and Charles have taken a cautious approach for his return. Charles has practiced, with the scout team early on, and now he’s getting snaps with the regular offense.
But it’s not like the Chiefs have been hurting with Charles inactive.
The Chiefs lost the first full regular-season game that Charles missed and the most recent, last weekend against the Texans. They won 11 straight in between with Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West carrying most of the load.
This season, with the team’s four touchdown drives crammed into 1 1/2 quarters and overtime against the Chargers, the running game has remained a consistent element for the Chiefs.
It can be argued the Chiefs haven’t run enough. They’re averaging 5.3 yards per attempt, fourth in the NFL. Ware, who has started both games, has gained 127 yards and averaged six yards per carry.
West, who started nine games last season, was quiet in the opener, but collected 60 yards on nine carries, an average of 6.7 yards per carry, in last week’s loss to the Texans.
Yet West echoes a sentiment heard throughout the team. They’re looking forward to seeing Charles’ No. 25 on the field.
“Jamaal taught me everything I know, so to get him back will be amazing,” West said.
It clearly will give the Chiefs plenty of options. Before he was hurt on the first series of the third quarter against the Bears last year, Charles was the alpha dog with 71 of the team’s 94 carries by running backs.
The West/Ware committee rolled through the rest of the 2015 season and has continued this season with a bit of role reversal. West got the majority of carries last year, Ware this season.
Ware not only leads the Chiefs with 127 rushing yards, his 177 receiving yards tops the team. He has the Chiefs’ three longest receptions of the season.
“Whenever he comes back we’ll be happy and lucky to have him back,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “With that being said, and the way our running backs are playing, it’s nice not to have that pressure where we need to hurry Jamaal back before he’s ready.
“The way these guys have been playing in the run and pass game, they’ve been really dynamic and have made plays for us.”
Eventually, Charles will return and the Chiefs will have in their arsenal a running back who was headed for his fourth straight 1,000-yard rushing season before the injury. He will bring an ability that has made him a two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl participant.
And he’ll be part of an Andy Reid offense that finds creative ways to use weapons.
“Those guys have worked hard at their job,” Reid said of Ware and West. “They’re young guys and there’s been some learning that’s taken place. I’m very pleased with the way they’ve handled themselves. They’ve got great energy.
“Now you add Jamaal into the mix and that’s a good problem to have right there.”
Reid also mentioned Knile Davis, who doesn’t have a rushing attempt this season but was Charles’ primary backup before the injury.
At least for another week, it appears the Chiefs will carry on with the same group since Charles’ injury.