Andy Reid’s Chiefs playing it safe with Jamaal Charles as Spencer Ware continues to shine

Chiefs Daily with Terez A. Paylor: Jamaal Charles, Ramik Wilson injury updates

Kansas City Star Chiefs beat reporter Terez Paylor recaps comments on Monday, Oct. 24 from head coach Andy Reid regarding linebacker Ramik Wilson and Jamaal Charles' injury status.
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Kansas City Star Chiefs beat reporter Terez Paylor recaps comments on Monday, Oct. 24 from head coach Andy Reid regarding linebacker Ramik Wilson and Jamaal Charles' injury status.

After registering season highs in snaps (15) and touches (11) against the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 16, running back Jamaal Charles saw his numbers in both categories decrease sharply in the Chiefs’ 27-21 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained this on Monday by noting that the 29-year-old Charles, who logged two plays and was stopped for no gain on a single carry, was limited in practice Friday due to swelling in his surgically-repaired knee.

“His knee acted up after the last game, and it was up and down through the last week,” Reid said. “We were doing OK without him in there, and I felt like if we could get by with that, (we should).”

Charles’ 24-year-old replacement, Spencer Ware, is in the midst of a very strong season. He has logged 95 carries for 492 yards — an average of 5.2 yards per carry — and two touchdowns. He has also emerged as a factor in the passing game, catching 15 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown.

Against the Saints, the 5-foot-10, 229-pound Ware played 36 snaps — 69 percent of the Chiefs’ offensive plays — and impressed Reid with his hard-charging style during a 17-carry, 77-yard performance.

“Great feet and vision — when he hits it, he’s going up the field,” Reid said of Ware. “You don’t see him going lateral much. When he sees it, he hits it, and makes up a little bit just by angles, on speed.”

Reid added that Ware’s running style has always been impressive, dating back to his college years at Louisiana State and the season he spent in Seattle (2013) as a rookie sixth-round pick learning under superstar Marshawn Lynch.

“I think him probably being around Seattle there a little bit with the way Beast Mode (Lynch) runs it — that’s the same type of deal,” Reid said. “He had a chance to watch that firsthand and talk to him.”

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith agreed, noting that he loves Ware’s agility and toughness with the ball in his hands.

“He’s a good mix (of skills), and I think you see it physically,” Smith said. “He has great vision and is hard to tackle.”

As for Charles, Reid said he is understandably itching to play. Charles tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee 12 months ago.

“I mean, does he want to play? Yeah, he wants to play,” Reid said of Charles.

That makes sense on a couple of levels. Charles is a competitor by nature — there’s no doubting how much he loves football — and he has business interests at stake, too. He’s slated to have a $7 million cap number in 2017, the last year of his current deal, and the Chiefs can gain all that in cap savings by releasing him.

That said, it stands to reason that a proud player like Charles, a guy with a 5.5 yards-per-carry average that ranks No. 1 all-time among running backs, probably can’t wait to show everybody what he can still do, especially with Ware and Charcandrick West under contract for next season.

Reid made clear that Charles will be needed at some point this season.

“It seems like there’s a rush on (his return), but if you really look at what’s real, it’s a long season,” Reid said. “And we’ll need him as we go, and I’m trying to be smart with it.”

Reid also said Ware’s performance, while good, was not the primary reason for keeping Charles on the bench Sunday.

“It’s not that one guy’s doing better than the other — that has nothing to do what that,” Reid said. “We’re not hiding something, there’s no game involved here or anything.”

Still, the Chiefs’ depth at the position certainly plays a role in Reid’s ability to play it safe with Charles. Ware’s backup against the Saints on Sunday was fellow third-year running back West, who is finally healthy and recorded 5 yards in four carries and caught a 3-yard pass.

West battled ankle and elbow issues earlier this season (he missed the Pittsburgh game on Oct. 2), and was actually the Chiefs’ leading rusher last year with 634 yards and four touchdowns in 160 carries, though Ware boasted a superior yards-per-carry average (5.6 to 4.0).

West’s availability as a speedy change-of-pace, third-down back who can catch and block — plus Charles’ recent injury tweak — was enough to keep the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher on the bench. For now.

“Yeah, his leg wasn’t feeling right — that was it,” Reid said. “He had a little tweak in there, and not that it was a big thing, but why? Why push it? With where we’re at right now, why do that? We’re just trying to be smart with it.”

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