Review: Chiefs Running Backs



With the departure of Jamaal Charles and the drafting of Kareem Hunt, I started to get a little concerned with our running backs. Over the last couple of years, it seems that group has been pretty unstable and declining in production. I thought I would do a quick fact check and see what the numbers say.

Chiefs Rushing Yardage History

2014 – The team rushed for 1,918 yards on 420 attempts, for a 4.57 yards per attempt.

2015 – The team rushed for 2,044 yards on 436 attempts, for a 4.69 yards per attempt.

2016 – The team rushed for 1,748 yards on 365 attempts, for a 4.79 yards per attempt.


As you can see, the total yardage and number of attempts has declined a bit, but the yards per attempt has risen each year. Our total offensive yards have increased each year, so we are definitely seeing a shift to more passing in the offense. 


Chiefs Rushing First Downs History


2014 – 92 rushing first downs, out of 309 total first downs, for a 30% rate of first downs.

2015 – 116 rushing first downs, out of 303 total first downs, for a 38% rate of first downs.

2016 – 86 rushing first downs, out of 305 total first downs, for a 28% rate of first downs.



With the decrease in rushing attempts, looks like we are also seeing a decrease in the percentage of first downs gained via the run. I can remember several games where we decided to go for a short yardage first down with a pass and didn’t pick it up. I am not sure if this was due to a lack of confidence in the backfield being able to pick it up or if Andy Reid was trying to out guess the defense, but we should be able to pick up more that 28% of our first downs rushing.


Chiefs Rushing Touchdowns History


2014 – 18 rushing touchdowns, out of 40 total touchdowns, for a 45% rate of touchdowns.

2015 – 19 rushing touchdowns, out of 45 total touchdowns, for a 42% rate of touchdowns.

2016 – 15 rushing touchdowns, out of 42 total touchdowns, for a 36% rate of touchdowns.



Similar to the first downs, we are seeing a decrease in the rate of touchdowns scored while rushing. This area, probably for the same reasons, seems like it should be a higher percentage, but is actually probably falling back to a rate more in line with the league.  Also, like the first downs, I remember a couple of plays inside the 5 yard line where we decided to throw the ball rather than pound it in.  



Over the course of the last 3 seasons, we have seen the top running backs change over each season. In 2014, Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis were the top duo, with 2015 having Charcandrick West and Alex Smith rush the most. In 2016, we saw Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West as the rushing leaders. At least some of this turnover is due to injury, which can’t be controlled, but having your QB as your second leading rusher isn’t a good thing. This is an area where we need to gain some stability with a running back for a couple of years. 


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Looking Ahead to 2017


What is going on in the backfield during the off season program? This year we drafted a running back in the third round, with the 86th pick. Kareem Hunt comes to us from Toledo, Ohio. In the table above, the numbers in italics show the stats from the rookies’ last year in college. I thought it might give us a glimpse of what we might see moving forward. I highlighted Gold for the items I think are positives and Red for those I think are negatives.




Kareem Hunt


Hunt had a solid year, racking up 1,475 rushing and 403 receiving yards, scoring 11 touchdowns along the way. Averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 9.8 yards per reception is right in line with what Chiefs kingdom has come to expect. What I also like to see is the lack of fumbles. 



Devine Redding


Devine Redding, an undrafted free agent, comes to us from Indiana. While there, in his last season, he picked up 1,122 yards rushing and 146 yards receiving, with 9 touchdowns. His yards per carry, while still pretty good, is 4.4 with a 5.4 yards per reception. He doesn’t seem to be able to do as much in the receiving game as I think we want in Andy Reid’s west coast offense. He also was able to hang onto the ball in his 280 touches.




Still on the team from last year, Anthony Sherman, Spencer Ware, and Charcandrick West, and newly signed free agent C.J. Spiller make up the rest of the group competing for spots on the team. Spiller didn’t play much last year and Sherman is move of a special-teamer than anything else. Sherman’s role as a lead blocker seems to have been lessened in the last year or two. 



Spencer Ware


Ware is really the standout in this group, although West had a good year in 2015. Ware was able to average 4.3 yards per carry on 214 carries and 13.5 yards per reception on 33 catches. Where he seemed to be lacking is in the touchdown and fumbling departments. He only got the ball into the endzone 5 times last year and fumbled 4 times, losing 3 of them. Both of those stats need improvement or he will end up as RB2.


Goal for 2017


Word from camp so far is that Hunt has been doing good things and is expected to challenge for playing time, if not starting. This could be good news for the offense, if he can produce like in college. Being able to rotate him with Ware would allow for fresh legs at the end of the season, and hopefully into the post season.


We need to have a 1,000 yard rusher, who can also pickup 500 yards receiving, and score 10 TDs. This should be very possible given that Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill should be keeping the defense from cheating up on the run. 



What do you guys think about the backfield this year? Is our lineup on the team now or do you expect some more free agent activity?


Until next week, there’s The Rub!





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Frank Leggio
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Frank Leggio

Frank Leggio is an operations director living in the Columbus, OH area.He has two sons and a couple of Beagles.He was born in Germany, went to high school in KS and college in CO.
Frank Leggio
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  • PaulfromnorthMO

    I think the biggest concern is scoring by our RBs. T Hill, A Smith and A Wilson combined for 451 yards of rushing but also 9 TDs. Add one more TD by Poe and we find that 2/3 of our rushing TDs were not by running backs.
    Is that from play calling, lack of quality rushers or poor short yardage O-line play? Maybe a combination of all three, but we definitely need improvement in that phase of the game.

  • larry mckinney

    Key to the success of the RBs is the OL. Chiefs can reasonably expect top drawer performance as the five have several years together as a unit, something often identified as essential for dominating OL performance. Yep, I see reasons for optimism.

    • tm1946

      RB by committee…. just do not care for it. Also most NFL teams have not been successful operating that way. Guess it depends on expectations for optimism.

      • Chiefly Bacon

        I think fatigue is a major reason for the RB by committee approach. If you can win in the regular season that way, you can roll with the hot hand in the playoffs. Ware was one of the most productive RBs in the NFL to start last season, but the loss of Ehinger and the ineffectiveness of West wore him down.

      • larry mckinney

        Who said anything about RB by committee?

        • Laurels and limitations

          it is rather pertinent. KC has been using a RB by committee model for years now.

          • larry mckinney

            Naw. JC was the lead running back until he was injured. First year after that, it was Ware as the featured back, last year it was anybody who was healthy. Certainly all RBs get attempts every year but I don’t see “RB by committee” as the offense’s plan.

        • Chiefs-Kings-A’s

          You did say “success of the RB’s” and I’m sure a little assumption played a part since KC has been RB by committee since Charles went down.

    • Laurels and limitations

      I wouldn’t mind seeing them break away from the ZBS and go man. Then again, the O-line’s continuity should be at an all time high this season. Hellifiknow, the only thing I DO understand is that this quick strike, short yardage game leaves a lot to be desired.

      • Chiefly Bacon

        That would require a complete overhaul of the Oline. I think we should see a great run game this year. A great ZBS has always been more effective than a great PBS, but the trouble is getting a bunch of athletic OL and keeping them long enough to develop continuity. Chiefs look like they may finally have pulled that off.

        • Laurels and limitations

          we’ll see. I mean, last season we blamed the lack of cohesion on a rookie becoming injured, season before that it was missing pieces and whatnot, season before that it was waiting on guys to develop. Maybe I’m being too quick off of the handle, but I’m beginning to believe that just letting dogs be dogs is better than teaching them to dance.

          • Chiefly Bacon

            This will be the first year in a while that Chiefs, presumably, won’t have new starters on at least two spots on the OL. Chiefs line is well suited to zone blocking, with the possible exception of some depth guys like Fulton and Reid. If Heck can’t get them together this year, he needs to go.

          • Laurels and limitations

            presumably, apt wording. For the record, I hope this entire ZBS thingy works but up to this point it has not. The current regimes o-lines up to this moment have relied on guys who can make openings where there ARE none (See: Charles, Jamaal) or guys who can shed tackles for a limited amount of games (See: Ware, Spencer). I still remember that looooooong drawn out draw play in the playoffs a few years ago….I’ve never witnessed a larger Charlie Foxtrot and I used to attempt to coach Pee Wee football so that’s sayin’ something.

  • Frank Rodela

    In his second start for the Braves farm team, the Braves (Danville), Sanders Commings got his first, and second, professional hits. The former 5th round pick for the Chiefs made the move to baseball after injuries derailed any chance he had of becoming a Safety in the NFL.

    I was high on Commings when he was drafted by the Chiefs, he just never got a chance to show why as he was hurt early and often once he made it to the team. Good to see he is getting a chance to play professional sports. And if he gets promoted to a higher rung in the system, it will be based on his play, not how many tickets he can sell….

    • tm1946

      Way to many college kids do not make the NFL because they cannot get on the field to transition what they did in college into the NFL. As for Commings, injury was his downfall, happens.

      • Frank Rodela

        Agreed, just glad he got a shot elsewhere

  • tm1946

    Heard it here…. second or third time around…. Andy Reid is the Alex Smith of coaching and if so, we fired the wrong guy…… how ’bout those ideas?

    PS I did not think of this first hand but it ring true…. and I did not even like Mr Dorsey…. of course, I could be wrong.

    • Chiefly Bacon

      Truth is, Reid and Dorsey are both very good. Sucks if that was the choice Chiefs had to make. If Chiefs didn’t like Dorsey’s communication style, maybe they could have fixed it by communicating that sooner.

    • larry mckinney

      Heard it here…the fifty-third or sixty-third time around. Hunt sucks, Reid sucks, Dorsey sucked, Smith sucks, 2017 is a disaster, draft sucked, blah, blah, blah…

      Got any thoughts about the article or are you just here to piss and moan?

  • Laurels and limitations

    speaking of running backs…

    Who is ready for camp! Huge thank you @DICKS for hooking it up #NoDreamIsTooBig Coming in clutch making lots of kids happy & 🏈 ready— Charcandrick West (@Charcandrick26) June 27, 2017

  • Roswell Incident

    I just want to be able to keep Ware’s legs fresher. He was money on short yardage 3rd down runs at the beginning of the year, not so much in the 2nd half of the season.