Maybe we can safely write off Jamaal Charles' useless Week 2 stat line — nine touches, 22 total yards — as the natural byproduct of a blowout loss. When a team trails 21-0 at half and 35-3 entering the fourth quarter, it's reasonable to expect the running game to go quiet. Charles certainly received plenty of early work on Sunday, with five touches in the Chiefs' first two possessions. He had a solid game in Kansas City's opener, too, gaining 87 yards on 16 carries.
But when a guy coming off a major knee injury is spotted on the sidelines during a critical situation riding a stationary bike ... well, we worry.
That was the case with Charles, while the Chiefs were driving in the final minutes of the first half at Buffalo, desperately needing a score. You'll note the situation in the image above: First-and-goal, 49 seconds on the clock, KC trailing by three touchdowns. If the Chiefs were going to make the game competitive, they needed points, immediately.
On first down, quarterback Matt Cassel threw an incompletion. On second-and-goal, Peyton Hillis coughed up the football (his signature move), ending the drive.
Charles spent the final two minutes of the half uninvolved, occasionally on the bike, while Hillis and Shaun Draughn handled the backfield work.
So what should we make of this?
Well, again, maybe it's nothing. We knew that Charles and Hillis would be involved in a rotation this season. Draughn is an unexpected addition to the mix, an undrafted former practice-squad member. But no one ever promised that Charles would be getting 20-25 carries per game.
My worry with Charles is that he may have been dinged on Sunday, late in the first half. Bills linebacker Kelvin Sheppard dragged him to the ground following a 7-yard pickup just before the two-minute warning, and Charles seemed to pop up gingerly. He didn't see the field again until the third quarter.
Of course it's a great sign that Jamaal eventually went back to work, and the team never gave any indication that he'd suffered or aggravated an injury. I've got no beef with him resting in the fourth quarter, with the game hopelessly out of hand. So perhaps there's no reason to fret.
But I'm fretting, just a little — enough to care about the mid-week practice reports. This is a situation worth tracking. Kansas City has a very friendly Week 3 matchup at New Orleans, and a healthy Jamaal Charles would rank as a strong play. If you've got any special Chiefs-related scoop, please share it with the group in comments...
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