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The Jamaal Charles Effect

When Larry Johnson was suspended and later released for comments he made on Twitter in late October, there was a lot of talk here at Arrowhead Pride about it being a case of addition by subtraction.  It had been clear for a long time that Larry Johnson was either washed up or cashing it in (likely both).

What we may have become numbed to after the last couple years of watching LJ run up the back of his offensive linemen and falling down as soon as a defender breathed on him, is how much having a legitimate running threat can improve the entire offense.

Consider these offensive stats with Larry Johnson vs. Jamaal Charles as the featured back:

Chiefs Team Totals As Of Week 16


Yds / Rush

Rush TD

Pass yds / game

Sacks / Game

3rd Down %

Avg 1st Downs

Avg. Rush 1st Downs



















 We all are aware of Charles's contributions to the running game. 

**Yds / Rush
If carried over a full season, the Chiefs 4.4 yds per rush would put them 8th in the NFL, whereas the 3.7 yd average with Larry Johnson as the featured back would put them at 29th.

**Rushing TD
While 5 rushing TDs over 8 games isn't exactly setting the world on fire (remember, the Chiefs ARE still a bad team), it is an obvious improvment over the 0 in 7 games LJ accomplished.

**Rushing 1st Downs
A nice 9% increase in rushing 1st downs with Charles as the featured back.


Those are some nice improvments that are obviously all Jamaal Charles.  But what about the hidden benefits to having a serious threat with the running game? 

Some have talked about the improvment of the offensive line in recent weeks.  No question the offensive line as a unit is below average and could use some upgrading, but the question must be asked whether they are really AS bad as we thought they were.  With no legitimate running threat, defenses could and did blitz all day long.  Since they didn't really have to worry about Larry Johnson breaking off a big run, they could pin their ears back and go after the quarterback.

The threat of Jamaal Charles in the backfield and his ability to make defenders miss has forced defenses to to take a less aggressive approach lest they be burned by Charles.  This has allowed Cassel and the passing game, even as they are among the leaders in dropped passes, room to operate.


Look at the improvment of the offense as a whole that can be directly traced to Jamaal Charles influence on defenses:

**3rd Down %
We have talked at length of the horrible 3rd down % of the Chiefs all year long.  But the increased success with Jamaal Charles on the field is clearly undeniable.  The Chiefs are converting 46% more 3rd downs since Jamaal Charles took over than they were before.  Now, its still bad.  32% is still terrible.  There are 15 teams that are converting 40% or more of their 3rd downs.  Again, the Chiefs are still a bad team.  But the improvment of the offense with Charles as a weapon is clearly illustrated by the 46% increase in conversion.

Since opposing defenses didn't have to respect the Chiefs running game with Larry Johnson in the backfield, they could key off on Matt CasselIn the first 7 games of the season, the Chiefs were on pace to give up 61.6 sacks over the course of the season, which would have been the most in the league the previous two seasons.  Since Charles became the featured back, the Chiefs are only surrendering 2.25 sacks per game, which carried over sixteen games would be only 36 sacks, which would have been 13th most in the NFL last year.  Again, thats still not acceptable, but its a vast improvment.

**Passing Yards per Game
Being able to stay on the field longer by converting more 3rd downs and having more time in the pocket to find open receivers further down the field as defenses are less aggressive in rushing the passer with a legitimate running threat, the Chiefs have enjoyed a 23% increase in passing yards per game since Charles took over.  That is the difference over the course of a season between being the 15th ranked passing offense and the 29th as they were on pace for before.


In conclusion, the Chiefs are still a bad team.  They still make way too many mental errors such as dropped passes and poor game managment.  But the Jamaal Charles Effect should give us hope that the Chiefs once again have a legitimate rushing threat that will prevent them from being one dimensional and predictable.  One player cannot turn a bad team around on his own, but he is definately a weapon that they can build on moving towards the future. 

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