For the second part of my Countdown to Training Camp series, we’ll take a look at a position of great strength for the Kansas City Chiefs – their running backs.
Jamaal Charles earned all the Escalades in 2013, including being named First Team All Pro for the first time in his career. Ending the season just shy of 2000 yards from scrimmage, Charles showed uncanny ability to affect the game in a plethora of ways. Andy Reid deserves major props as arguments about overuse persisted throughout most of the season, yet Charles finished the year averaging only about 21 touches per game.
Rookie third round draft choice Knile Davis ended the season with just 81 offensive touches, but flashed an elite combination of speed and power when he got his chances. The former Razorback sparkled on special teams in preseason play with two return-TDs, but it was this truly memorable 108-yarder at Arrowhead against the Broncos that got Chiefs fans excited about the future. Davis ended the season on IR with a broken leg suffered the playoff loss to Indy but reports have him back at 100% and ready to take the field in St. Joseph.
Charles and Davis sit firmly atop of the depth chart but I beg you to make sense of the leftovers.
The lasting memory of Cyrus Gray is a painful one: lacking the speed to reach a beautifully placed Alex Smith pass down the sideline that may have sealed the Chiefs first playoff win in 20 years. Just days after that crushing loss, the Chiefs signed former All Pro kick returner Joe McKnight, who last played for the New York Jets in the 2012 season.
If that wasn’t enough to scare Cyrus Gray – or illustrate the Chiefs’ preference for speed at running back – John Dorsey and Andy Reid drafted an electric playmaker in the fourth round this year: Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas. While many have pegged DAT as the favorite to reprise Dexter McCluster’s role in the slot, the rookie will most likely be employed as a running back.
Long story short: we have no idea if Cyrus Gray is any good, Joe McKnight hasn’t played football on a Sunday since 2012 and Lord only knows what the plan is for rookie speedster De’Anthony Thomas.
The battle in camp should be between Gray and McKnight seeing as Charles, Davis and DAT are essentially guaranteed spots on the roster. McKnight can contribute in the return game, but not landing on anyone’s roster in 2013 despite being completely healthy is a major red flag. Cyrus Gray is considered a better all-around special teamer (and a better all-around running back) but the Chiefs clearly put a priority on bringing in competition for him this offseason.
Considering Jamaal won’t see more than 10-15 total snaps in preseason play and Plural Davis has the backup role locked down, I would expect Gray and McKnight to get every opportunity to display their value. Between missing an entire season, never establishing himself in the Jets’ offense, the Chiefs selecting DAT in the draft and the stiff competition he’ll face for kick return duties, landing on Kansas City’s 53-man roster seems like a long shot at the very best for Joe McKnight.
Prediction: Kansas City keeps five running backs – Charles, Davis, DAT, Gray and Sherman (FB)
The Countdown to Training Camp series kicked-off on the Fourth of July with my thoughts on the Chiefs Quarterbacks. Here’s the remaining schedule of releases, leading-up to the team’s arrival in St Joe:
July 8: Wide Receivers
July 10: Tight Ends
July 12: Offensive Line
July 14: Defensive Line
July 16: Linebackers
July 18: Cornerbacks
July 20: Safeties
July 22: Kickers
July 24: Training Camp Begins