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Chiefs run game still potent without star
SAN DIEGO – Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles may have been the best in the NFL last season.
The All-Pro averaged an astounding 6.4 yards per carry in 2010 and was percentage points off Hall of Famer Jim Brown’s all-time single-season record. Losing Charles’ 1,467 rushing yards from a year ago, plus his increased role in pass pro and catching the ball, counts for something (Charles tore an ACL against Detroit last week).
But Charles didn’t get all those yards by going 1-on-11 with the defense, and the rest of the team produced more than 1,100 rushing yards of their own in 2010. The Chiefs plowed for 5.2 yards per carry against the Lions on just two Charles carries.
Dexter McCluster, the second-year speedster out of Ole Miss, leads the team in receptions and rushing yards while playing out of the backfield more this season. From 2005-11, only LaDainian Tomlinson and Steven Jackson rushed for more yards than Charles’ backfield mate Thomas Jones (7,317). And don’t forget Le’Ron McClain, who nearly gained 1,000 rushing yards for Baltimore in 2008.
“Thomas Jones is a heck of a back. That one-two punch was big. I’m sure they’re going to use McCluster to compliment Jones,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “Certainly their offensive line is excellent and they have a big, strong, physical fullback. That’s what they do. We know we’re going to get the running game, the hard play-action passes and the mix of that style of offense.”
Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley said running back Jackie Battle, who started the season as an exclusive special teams player, also could get carries.
“Thomas will get more opportunities for sure, but we’ll stay with how we’ve done it, which is have a bunch of guys carrying the football,” Haley said.
Charles isn’t the first Kansas City back to run the ball well. Christian Okoye, Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson were all Pro Bowl running backs for the Chiefs in the last 22 years.
“They have a good scheme,” Takeo Spikes said. “I remember back in the Priest Holmes days. (They run) the same stretch scheme. (They have) a very crafty center (Casey Wiegmann). They know what they’re doing. You can tell the running backs understand what the offensive linemen are doing blocking-wise and vice versa. They really play off each other well.”
CRAYTON TO RETURN: Patrick Crayton is expected to make his 2011 debut Sunday against Kansas City.
Crayton practiced last Wednesday for the first time in weeks following August ankle surgery and was inactive against Minnesota and New England.
Malcom Floyd, one of seven Chargers who did not practice Wednesday, injured his groin on an impressive third-down conversion against the Patriots and is the player most at risk of missing the Chiefs game, Turner said.
Whether or not Floyd can play, Crayton’s versatility is an asset to San Diego. Crayton caught 28 passes for 514 yards in nine games for the Chargers last season.
“Patrick played all three positions for us last year and was productive in all spots,” Turner said. “We can move him around and he can handle a lot of things. He does give us flexibility.”