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Insider Blog: Solo Dance?

Posted Mar 8, 2010

Recent free agency reports bring two-back system into focus

Since the NFL calendar rolled in a new league year just before the weekend, Kansas City has yet to acquire a player who didn’t call Kansas City home at the end 2009. Rest assured, that won’t be the case for long.

The hottest name in free agency, Julius Peppers, has signed in Chicago. The Jets now boast the best cornerback tandem in the league after trading for Antonio Cromartie. Miami inked Karlos Dansby and, oh yeah, the Ravens swung a deal with Arizona for Anquan Boldin.

That final transaction is what really felt like a kick in the teeth for Chiefs fans, particularly when reports surfaced that the Chiefs were in a two-horse race to acquire the services of a Pro Bowler. Hopefully the Friday afternoon roller coaster ride of breaking news didn’t spoil your weekend.

If it did, all apologies, but it shouldn’t have.

Welcome to the wild ride that is NFL free agency. Signings, trade talks, cuts and visits occur on a daily basis and we seem to hinge on every report out there. As sports fans, we never seem to learn.

It’s the same every year. There are going to be highs, lows, joys and disappointments. That’s the process and it’s the reality. Unfortunately, there are 31 other teams aiming to better their respective franchises in addition to the Chiefs. Add in the fact that almost nothing is kept private anymore and it only adds to the agony of apparent close calls.

For most Chiefs fans, Boldin’s arrival in Charm City represents disappointment. Inside league offices, there’s no time for disappointment. Business is business and it’s on to the next target. Apparently, one of those targets could be RB Thomas Jones.

Reports around the league have the leading rusher, for the league’s leading rushing attack, due to arrive in Kansas City for a free agent visit later today. Adam Schefter’s Twitter feed broke the news Saturday night and hundreds of media outlets have jumped on the report since.

Out with Boldin and on to Thomas; the never-ending cycle of NFL news and rumors wages forward. Oh the humanity.

Kansas City’s apparent interest in Jones, despite owning the rights to a heck of a runner in Jamaal Charles, only further confirms that offensive success in the NFL begins and ends with multiple ball carriers roaming the backfield.

Jones’ 1,402 rushing yards in 2009 paced the Jets and rookie Shonn Greene plugged along with 540 yards of his own. Those 1,402 yards gained by Jones ranked third overall in the NFL, but Green’s rushing total is the number to circle.

Of the top eight rushing team in 2009, seven of those squads saw a secondary rusher gain at least 500 yards on the ground. Naturally, that list included four playoff teams as well as the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. The only one of the top eight not to post a reserve runner over 500 yards was the Tennessee Titans. They happened to have a 2,000-yard back in Chris Johnson, which is an exception in itself.

There’s no secret to running the football in the NFL. To be at the top, more often than not, there must be more than one feature man.

Here’s how the league’s rushing chart broke down 1-8 in 2009:

1. Jets (9-7, AFC Championship Game) – 2,756 yards

a. Thomas Jones – 1,402 yards

b. Shonn Greene 540 yards

2. Titans (8-8) – 2,592 yards

a. Chris Johnson – 2,006 yards

b. Vince Young – 281 yards

3. Panthers (8-8) – 2,498 yards

a. Jonathan Stewart – 1,133 yards

b. DeAngelo Williams 1,117 yards

4. Dolphins (7-9) – 2,231 yards

a. Ricky Williams – 1,121 yards

b. Ronnie Brown – 648 yards

5. Ravens (9-7, NFL Playoffs) – 2,200 yards

a. Ray Rice – 1,339 yards

b. Willis McGahee – 554 yards

6. Saints (13-3, Super Bowl Champions) – 2,106 yards

a. Pierre Thomas – 793 yards

b. Mike Bell – 654 yards

7. Cowboys (11-5, NFL Playoffs) – 2,103 yards

a. Marion Barber – 932 yards

b. Felix Jones – 685 yards

8. Browns (5-11) – 2,087 yards

a. Jerome Harrison – 862 yards

b. Jamal Lewis – 500 yards

Kansas City finished the 2009 season ranked 11th in the NFL’s rushing department, a phenomenal finish considering where the Chiefs placed prior to the changing of the guard from Larry Johnson to Jamaal Charles on November 9th.

"These days you need an extra back at my position to carry the load because people these days get worn out," Charles said on Saturday at the 40th annual 101 Awards. "I think it'd be real good to have another running back.”

Schefter’s report of Jones’ visit to Kansas City isn’t the first revolving around Kansas City’s desire to add a weapon in the backfield next to Charles. There were reports of a possible interest in Darren Sproles before the former K-State Wildcat was unexpectedly tendered by San Diego last week. The Chiefs also made certain to re-sign RB Kolby Smith before free agency began. Despite his injury history, Smith is the only rusher on the Chiefs roster with considerable NFL rushing experience outside of Charles.

Big or small, thunder or lightning, it looks like the Chiefs are serious about finding a supplement for their primary ball carrier. The NFL Draft is one way to approach this strategy. Another is to bring one of the league’s top-three rushers into town for a free agent visit.

Regardless of how the help surfaces, the Chiefs need someone to emerge as a primary aide for Charles. Kansas City’s current crop of reserve halfbacks (Tim Castille, Kolby Smith, Jackie Battle, Javarris Williams and Kestahn Moore) combined for just 42 carries in 2009, an average of just 2.6 carries per game.

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