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On Jamaal Charles' usage, it's about carries, not receptions

Chatting with Football Outsiders about Jamaal Charles and the magic number of touches.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

As part of the release of the annual Football Outsiders Almanac, which is excellent as always, I talked with Scott Kacsmar from Football Outsiders on the 2014 Kansas City Chiefs. I'll be posting a series of questions this week from my chat with him. If you're a football nut, the FO Almanac is for you.

FO AlmanacPDFAmazon

My first question was on the usage of Jamaal Charles, who had 259 carries and 70 receptions last year. I'm thinking that number will go up in 2014 as the Chiefs will ride Charles as long as they can. I asked Scott if there is any level of concern over the amount of carries and receptions Charles has. Interestingly, he says it's about the carries, not so much the receptions.

"Our research has never shown a solid link between receptions and next-year decline." -Scott Kacsmar, Football Outsiders

"As Chiefs fans should know, injuries can happen on any play, including the sixth play from scrimmage of a Wild Card playoff game," Kacsmar wrote. "I'm not a big proponent of worrying about injuries. The reality for Charles is he's going into his age-28 season and he's never had more than 285 carries in a season. If I'm Andy Reid, I drive him hard until the wheels come off, because he is getting close to that age where running backs decline. Not many teams can say their running back is their best offensive player, but the Chiefs are one of those teams. Charles has to get a lot of touches for the offense to be better.

"Our research has never shown a solid link between receptions and next-year decline. Maybe it's because there's less contact, generally, on a reception than getting a handoff and running between tackles, but it's always been the carry count that's had some negative impact on future production. You don't want to see a running back get 370-plus carries in one year. Think of Larry Johnson after 2006 (416 carries) and how he was never the same back. Again, Charles has not had a ton of carries in his career, so I wouldn't worry about any fatigue. He should keep getting 330-plus touches a year for as long as he can manage."

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