A look back at the running back position from the 2014 regular season.
2014 ROSTER: Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, Charcandrick West, De’Anthony Thomas, fullback Anthony Sherman
INJURED RESERVE: Cyrus Gray (knee), Joe McKnight (Achilles)
2015 FREE AGENTS: Joe McKnight
While not as dynamic as his 2013 season, Jamaal Charles once again was the focal point of the Kansas City offense this year.
Charles accounted for 1,324 yards, good for nearly a quarter of the team’s total offense. Charles added 14 total touchdowns, which tied for third-most in the NFL, despite missing Week 3 due to an ankle injury.
Knile Davis, Charles’ primary backup, had an inconsistent season. After totaling just two touches for six yards in Week 1, Davis tallied five total touchdowns in the following six games, including one kick return touchdown. However, in the season’s final nine games, Davis rushed for 65 yards, added 95 receiving yards and three total touchdowns.
De’Anthony Thomas, although officially listed as a running back, was utilized all over the field by coach Andy Reid. As a runner, Thomas rushed for 113 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown this season. As a receiver, he caught 23 passes for 156 yards and added one touchdown on a punt return.
Fullbacks have been labeled as a “dying breed” in the NFL by most analysts, but Anthony Sherman has become one of the league’s best. Despite only catching one touchdown pass this year, Sherman is a vital piece to the Chiefs backfield and saw action in every game. The Chiefs signed him to a contract extension on Nov. 5. Terms of the deal are a reported three-year extension.
Week 3 in Miami saw Joe McKnight’s only action of the season, but he scored two touchdowns on six receptions for 64 yards. McKnight unfortunately ruptured his Achilles tendon just days after the game during practice and landed on injured reserve.
Although he ran for a touchdown in Week 3, Cyrus Gray’s action mostly came on special teams, and his season was ended after he tore his ACL during the Week 10 game against the Buffalo Bills.
Rookie Charcandrick West was on the roster for six games, but did not record any rushing stats and contributed mostly on special teams.
The Chiefs can’t ask much more from Jamaal Charles. Over the last few years, he’s easily been the team’s most important player and one of the league’s best running backs.
Still, the Chiefs should consider lightening his load in 2015, considering his age and the touches he’s accumulated over the last three seasons. He turned 28 in December and totaled 750 carries and 145 catches since the 2012 season.
Knile Davis has been solid when given the chance, but the team hasn’t been willing to give him consistent touches to this point. If the Chiefs can find a role for Davis, they can add another weapon to an offense that desperately needs it and potentially lessen the pressure on Charles.
The Chiefs surprisingly carried five running backs on the initial 53-man roster, so Charcandrick West and Cyrus Gray, a special teams ace, should get consideration.
ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK?
Charles, Davis, Thomas and Sherman are sure bets to return in 2015, as they all have contracts for next season and are significant contributors.
With McKnight scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March, don’t be surprised to see the team allow him to test the market, as extra touches are already scarce in the Kansas City backfield.
Look for the fourth and possibly fifth running back spot to be decided in training camp and preseason, with special teams play being the primary determinant.