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NFL AM: Jamaal Charles Hits The Field For First Time Since ACL Tear

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The Kansas City Chiefs were a team on the rise last season and as they try to move up in the ultra-competitive AFC West, they’re happy to welcome back one of the faces of the franchise.

For the first time since tearing his right ACL in a Week 5 loss to the Chicago Bears last season, Charles has been on the field with his teammates this week, participating in individual drills with his fellow running backs at Chiefs minicamp. It’s a large step in the right direction for Charles, who had surgery on the knee just eight months ago.

It’s not the first time Charles has returned during minicamp from an ACL tear. He did the same in 2012 after tearing his left ACL in Week 2 0f the 2011 season. He returned in 2012 to rush for a career-high 1,509 yards. The following year he led the league in touchdowns. Charles has said repeatedly this offseason that he’s confident he can bounce back in a similar way from this knee injury.

“I know the outside perspective can be that I was hurt last year, so I don’t get as much respect as the person that played the whole season,” he wrote in a blog entry earlier this offseason. “It’s about what you’ve done lately. You can have a great season one year, and then the next year not play the whole season, and you don’t get the same benefit of the doubt. I know that comes with the territory. People feel like they don’t know what I can do anymore. But that’s motivation for me to show what I can do now.”

At 29 years old, this comeback has been and will be a little more laborious for Charles, but before his knee gave out last season, the All-Pro running back was showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, in the five games he played last season, Charles averaged 5.1 yards per carry, keeping his career yards per carry average at an absurd 5.5. He currently ranks second all time among running backs in that category, behind Marion Motley, who averaged 5.7 as a fullback for the Browns and Steelers from 1946-1955. Charles also ranks ahead of the legendary Jim Brown (5.2 career ypc) in that category.

The return of a healthy Charles gives the Chiefs and embarrassment of riches at the running back position. While Charles was out last season, young runners Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware emerged as a potent 1-2 punch that helped the team compile an 11-game win streak that carried them into the playoffs last year and through the first round before their season ended in a divisional round loss to New England.

Provided Charles is healthy, it will be interesting to see how Kansas City coach Andy Reid and new co-offensive coordinators Brad Childress and Matt Nagy utilize the various weapons on their offense. With Jeremy Maclin remaining the team’s only real top tier talent at wide receiver, it’s likely that Charles and West could get some work in the passing game, perhaps even split out wide.

Charles still has a bit to go before he’s ready to get to work in team drills, but the progress is promising for both he and the Chiefs, and barring any setbacks, by the time they meet up again in training camp in late July, the star running back should be back ready to go.

CHARGERS IMPRESSED WITH GORDON’S PROGRESS

While the Chiefs are looking to get their running game back to full strength for the new season, the division rival San Diego Chargers are hoping to get more out of there’s than they did in a disappointing 2015 campaign.

Getting there begins with a better season from 2015 first round draft choice Melvin Gordon, who spearheaded that underachieving attack last season, and so far in 2016, Gordon appears primed to turn it up a notch when the season rolls around.

The 23-year-old running back is himself returning from knee surgery, a minor procedure to repair some torn cartilage after he hurt the knee late in the season. At that point, the writing was already on the wall that 2015 wasn’t going to be the season Gordon or the Chargers anticipated when they picked him 15th overall in the draft. But that down rookie yea,r and an offseason of recovery, have provided the young running back with motivation to come out strong in 2016 and prove he’s the player San Diego thought it was getting.

“I have something to prove more than ever before, and I like that way right now. I do feel like an underdog, and I think our whole team feels like an underdog,” he said. “I have a lot of people doubting me, and they want to see that I am every bit of the player they thought they were getting. I’m out here trying to prove to my teammates most of all that I can play.  I have to earn their trust first, and after a whole year with those guys and that tough season, I think it brought us all together.  This offseason brought us together too, and we’ve built camaraderie over the offseason.  I don’t want to let my teammates down.”

Thus far at Chargers minicamp, Gordon has been doing the opposite of that. After sitting out much of OTAs as he took the final steps in his recovery from the offseason surgery, he’s been participating with the team during their week of mandatory work before they break for six weeks until training camp. Gordon spoke about how he has a better grasp of the team’s playbook, how he’s seeing the holes his offensive line is producing with better timing, and how excited he is to put last season behind him.

Meanwhile, the Chargers coaching staff has praised the work Gordon has done this offseason. Head Coach Mike McCoy lauded the effort his running back has put in to recover from the offseason surgery, which was performed in January, and get back on the field in great shape ready to contribute at minicamp. San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt feels Gordon’s offseason work has set a good tone for where he’ll be when training camp, and finally the season, rolls around.

“He definitely finished strong,” said Whisenhunt. “He finished on an upbeat. You could see him get more comfortable with the runs we’re asking him to do.  Part of it is what does he do well?  Early in this period, he wasn’t doing a whole lot.  He was just doing the individual.  I think part of it for him was getting it through his mind that he was ready to go.  But probably over the past two weeks I’ve seen some really nice cuts, some explosive runs and hopefully that trend will continue.”

RAVENS CUT EUGENE MONORE LOOSE

Several teams in the market for help blocking for their running backs got a somewhat unexpected addition to the shallow pool of talent left on the market on Wednesday when the Baltimore Ravens decided to cut ties with offensive lineman Eugene Monroe.

It had been no secret that Monroe was on the outs in Baltimore, but the speculation was that former first round pick would be traded rather than being sent to the open market. But when a potential trade between the Ravens and New York Giants feel through this week, Baltimore made the decision to cut bait on the seven-year veteran.

Monroe has never lived up to the lofty expectations set forth for him after he was taken No. 8 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2009 NFL Draft. He spent four-and-a-half seasons in Jacksonville before the Jags got sick of him and traded him to Baltimore in 2013 for fourth and fifth round picks in the 2014 Draft. The Ravens then re-signed the tackle to a five-year, $37.5 million deal, of which $17.5 million was guaranteed. But after two seasons, in which he started just 17 games due to myriad injuries and general ineffectiveness, Baltimore couldn’t even recoup the draft picks they initially spent on Monroe.

Though Monroe has been a mostly disappointing presence over his seven years in the league, he’s expected to have plenty of suitors on the open market with teams desperate to add to their talent pool on the offensive line. After the Giants nearly traded for Monroe, New York is likely to top the list of potential destinations for him, especially since the Giants won’t have to take on his big contract anymore. The Seattle Seahawks are another franchise that could use all the help they can get on the offensive line and could try to bring in Monroe, as could the Chargers, Dolphins, 49ers and Panthers.

The key will be not investing too heavily in Monroe, because he’s already proven twice what happens when you do that. But if some team can bring him in on an incentive laden deal, where there’s no risk, just reward, perhaps he could actually help somebody.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys