2010 Position Preview: Running Back

Posted Jul 29, 2010

Top-to-bottom, this will be one of the most intriguing position groups to watch at training camp

Back for more: Jackie Battle; Tim Castille; Jamaal Charles; Mike Cox; Kestahn Moore; Javarris Williams

Welcome to KC: Tervaris Johnson (rookie free agent); Thomas Jones (unrestricted free agent)

Departures: Dantrell Savage; Kolby Smith

2009 Starts: Charles (10); Cox (10)

Career Games Played: Jones (Cox (32); Charles (31); Castille (21); Battle (17); Williams (4); Moore (0); Johnson (0)

Preview: Hands-down, the Chiefs cast of running backs is believed to be the strongest position group on the roster heading into training camp. Most of that belief is due to an off-season acquisition that saw the league’s third-leading rusher in 2009 join forces with the youngest player to ever win Chiefs MVP honors.

Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles have been hot topics this off-season. Nationally, the competition between the pair has been mentioned as one of the top training camp battles to watch across the entire league. Locally, the feeling is a bit different.

We’re all intrigued by the two top-tier running backs pushing each other this training camp, but most of us realize that there are other position battles more pressing for the club this summer. For Charles and Jones, it’s obvious that both will be a big part of the Chiefs offensive game plan, regardless of who gets the starting nod on Opening Day. For the rest of the running backs, things look like a complete toss-up.

Take a look at the Chiefs third running back position. Kansas City has several options for 2010 and, at the moment, they are as clear as mud.

Although he is listed as a wide receiver for the Chiefs, rookie Dexter McCluster started at running back for two years while at Ole Miss. He’s expected to line up all over the place this fall, but whether or not the Chiefs decide to part ways with a traditional runner in favor of McCluster for the third running back position is debatable.

The Chiefs carried five runners at the conclusion of training camp a year ago, so even if McCluster officially “counts” as the third running back behind Charles and Jones, there is still room for a fullback and possibly one additional running back on the squad. This scenario highlights the battle for the club’s fullback position.

The front runners for fullback duties appear to be veterans Mike Cox and Tim Castille. Both players were on the roster last year, but performed very different roles. Cox is a bigger, more traditional blocker, while Castille is viewed as more of a “tweener.” Castille played in single back sets last season and, as injuries dictated, served as the top reserve at both running back and fullback depending on the situation.

What the Chiefs decide to do with McCluster, Cox and Castille will likely set the available roster spaces for the remaining runners at camp.

On the practice squad a year ago, Kestahn Moore was a bright spot in off-season practices. At 214 pounds, Moore showed some nice bursts through the line of scrimmage in non-contact drills. If he can do the same in padded training camp practices, he’s going to become a preseason favorite of Chiefs fans. It also doesn’t hurt that he seems to absorb any and all pointers that Jones is willing to dish his way.

Bouncing between the practice squad and active roster last season, 2009 seventh-round draft pick Javarris Williams is built like a bowling ball. At 5-10, 223, Williams is aiming to power his way into the running back rotation.

One of the Chiefs best special teams performers in recent years has been Jackie Battle. Though technically listed as a running back, Battle’s role in 2009 (before injury) was very similar to the one that Castille played for the club down the stretch. Battle’s versatility as a reserve in the backfield and ability to play on every special teams unit always has him in the picture when 53-man rosters are forming. He appears fully recovered from the shoulder ailment that cut short his 2009 season.

Want more versatility? Undrafted rookie Tervaris Johnson defines the term. A fullback at camp, Johnson was a top recruit at safety coming out of high school and played cornerback at Miami before outgrowing the position and shifting to tight end/h-back for the Hurricanes. His collegiate background will definitely intrigue special teams coach Steve Hoffman.

With the Chiefs running backs, the question isn’t about who starts between Jones and Charles. It’s more about who fills out the roster outside of that pair.

Quotable: The following player or coach quotes occurred this off-season, relative to the position group.

Haley on the Chiefs running backs as a position group…

“There are a lot of positions that I am excited about seeing how things transpire once we get to training camp, but that is one at the top of the list for a bunch of different reasons.”

Haley on the relationship between Jones and Moore…

“He has followed RB Thomas (Jones) around like a little puppy which is good. It is what he should be doing when you have an opportunity to learn from a guy like that. They are watching tape all the time and most importantly the times we have been on the field, at least daily, he has found a way to show up. You can’t put too much into it until you see him in pads. He is a guy who shows up every day and you get excited about him and he is in great competition so I think that will push somebody to the top and hopefully whoever that is will be able to push the other two guys mentioned and you are getting better.”

Jones on his approach to his 2010 role with the Chiefs…

“I feel like, by me working as hard as I can during the week to get prepared, I will be in a position to do what I need to help the team win. I have always been a team guy and for me, the more talented guys you have, the greater the chance you have to win. There is no perfect number of carries; it is what you do with each carry you get.”

Number Crunch: The Chiefs carried five running backs on the Opening Day roster in 2009 –Battle,  Charles, Cox, *Larry Johnson, Savage

*indicates opening day starter

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