The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid was named the new boss in Kansas City on Friday.
For Port Arthur’s favorite NFL son Jamaal Charles, that means yet another offense, yet another scheme to learn and yet another coach who may woefully underuse the talented back.
Except, with Reid, Charles may have finally found a match made in heaven.
While Charles will have to adjust to a West Coast offense, the scheme Reid runs seems perfectly fit for the versatile Memorial ex, much moreso than any he’s run in Kansas City recently. Charles took over the all-time NFL lead in yards per carry for his career this season, but does not really get an opportunity to catch the ball out of the backfield.
That will change with Reid and the West Coast offense and should create the defensive nightmare of dealing with “Jamaal Charles in space.”
What makes the West Coast so running back friendly? Let’s go back to some Chalk Talk-type theory on how football offenses work. For years and year, NFL offenses were predicated on running to set up the pass.
Teams would run up the middle, sucking defensive players towards the line of scrimmage and thus, opening up throwing lanes down the field. When Bill Walsh developed the West Coast attack in Cincinnati with Kenny Anderson, he did the opposite. He used the ultra-efficient Anderson to throw short passes on slants and screens to set up the run.
By spreading the field with a quick passing attack on the edges, Walsh was able to open things up in the middle for his running backs. That philosophy has pervaded many NFL head coaches game plans, but none more than Reid.
Part of that is Reid’s commitment to a single running back instead of back-by-committee approaches. Charles has certainly dealt with a crowded backfield that cut into his carries and third-down opportunities to catch passes. With Reid, that should get swept out the door, and for good reason.
Just look at the similarities between Charles and two prominent Eagles backs of recent history. LeSean McCoy was drafted out of Pittsburgh after a disappointing college career, but formed a great backfield piece for Reid, because he could catch the ball and run between the tackles.
In four seasons, McCoy averaged 55 catches per season, peaking with 78 in 2010. During that stretch, McCoy had 200 carries three times, topping out at 273 carries, but averaging over 5 yards per carry just once.
Another Reid staple at running back, Bryant Westbrook, was also a dual threat. Westbrook topped 1,000 rushing yards just twice in his Eagles career, but had a four year stretch in his prime where caught an average of 75 passes per season, topping out with 90 in 2007.
Westbrook averaged 5 yards per carry just once from 2004 to 2008 and topped 200 carries three straight seasons, but always had at least 50 or more catches in those seasons.
Compare that to Charles, who has a brilliant career yards per catch average of 8.4 (higher than either McCoy or Westbrook) but has never caught more than 45 passes in a season. He’s topped 200 carries in each of his last two non-injured seasons, but hasn’t come close to the number of touches that Reid’s running backs get.
He’s also averaged over 5 yards per carry in every one of his pro seasons. Combine the effectiveness of Charles in the passing and running games under Reid and Charles could be poised to become the most complete back in the NFL.
Well, he may already be there, but with Reid, Charles may finally have a coach who recognizes that and can utilize him to the fullest of his abilities. If he can do that? Roger Craig’s 1985 season isn’t out of the question, when he ran for 1,050 yards and caught 92 passes for 1,016 yards.
Only two backs in NFL history have had 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Jamaal has the talent and, finally, the scheme to join them.
David Coleman is a Port Arthur News sportswriter