KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Whether it’s Sunday against the Steelers in Pittsburgh or sometime shortly afterward, Andy Reid is going to have to make a decision with Jamaal Charles that he hasn’t had to since joining the Kansas City Chiefs as their coach in 2013.
The question: What to do with him?
Reid’s choice with Charles was obvious before the veteran running back tore the ACL in his right knee last October. It was to play Charles, one of the most productive running backs of his era before and since Reid’s arrival.
Charles is on the verge of his return, whether or not it happens against the Steelers. But he hasn’t played any live football in almost a year. He’s also returning to a Chiefs running back world that was far different than it was before his injury.
Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West are no longer unproven players as they were before Charles left the lineup. They’ve proved their value to the Chiefs, enough so that the Chiefs found it necessary to re-sign both to contract extensions over the offseason.
Still, the Chiefs are aware that Charles has better big-play ability and can thus add another dimension to what has been a struggling offense.
The plan with Charles during much of the offseason, when the Chiefs thought he would be ready to play at the start of the regular season, was to install him as the full-time featured back.
That still could happen at some point during the season, once the Chiefs are convinced he’s the same player he was before the injury and ready for a big workload.
But it won’t happen immediately after his return. That would go against every cautious move the Chiefs have made with him. It would also ignore the contributions the Chiefs have received from their two other backs. That’s particularly true for Ware, who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and is second on the Chiefs in receiving yards.
The Chiefs would more likely get Charles involved in some sort of playing rotation. It makes more sense that the rotation would also involve Ware more than West. Not only has Ware been more productive than West but his physical style would give the Chiefs more of a change of pace than if they split playing time between Charles and West.