Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The Kansas City Chiefs are crafting a modern love story even William Shakespeare would be proud of. Call it "Romeo and Jamaal."
I just hope this one won't have a tragic ending.
Of course, I'm referring to Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel's infatuation with running back Jamaal Charles. Crennel is doing something all fantasy owners hope for -- consistently utilizing his top offensive weapon regardless of the score or game situation -- but will he regret it if Charles wears down come December?
Coming into this year, Charles had never carried the ball more than 25 times in a game. During his breakout year in 2010, the running back only toted the rock 20-plus times in three of 16 games.
And yet, Charles has been handed the ball at least 30 times in two of the last three contests. The Chiefs back is on pace for 326 carries, 96 more than his career high of 230. However, 80 of those have come in the last three games; if that trend continues, Charles would exceed 425 carries.
There's just no way a 5-foot-11, 199-pound player can handle that kind of pounding for 16 games. Especially one who's coming off an ACL tear a little over a year ago.
Here's the crazy thing: Crennel sounded regretful that he didn't get Charles more carries on Sunday, saying "I wish he could get it more because he can run for a touchdown," per the Kansas City Star.
Crennel has done a complete 180 from the former Kansas City coaching staff. Todd Haley may have been too careful with Charles, giving more carries to a washed up Thomas Jones, Crennel is lacking foresight.
You can't really blame him, considering how awful quarterback Matt Cassel has been and considering his regime's tenuous position with the team. Feeding Charles may be the only thing preventing Crennel from being handed his walking papers.
The decision to shop Charles is going to be a difficult one, however, even for the forward-thinking fantasy owner.
Looking ahead at Kansas City's schedule, it's possible that even if Charles' tires are worn down by midseason, his numbers won't be affected. The Chiefs face tough run defenses in three of their next four games with Tampa Bay, San Diego and Pittsburgh (all road games), but they play Oakland following their bye and don't have another run-stuffing team on their schedule the rest of the season.
From Week 11 to Week 17, Kansas City opposes Cincinnati (18th in rushing ypg), Denver (20th), Carolina (22nd), Cleveland (25th), Oakland (23rd), Indianapolis (24th) and Denver again.
You'd like to think that the return of Peyton Hillis from an ankle sprain will lighten Charles' load, but Hillis is more likely to take touches from Shaun Draughn (31 touches over the last three weeks). Plus, spelling Charles makes Hillis look more plodding than powerful, so it behooves Kansas City to have Charles on the field much more often than Hillis.
Through five games, Charles is leading the NFL in rushing with 551 yards and second in carries with 102. Arian Foster can pass Charles with 171 yards on Monday night, as can Shonn Greene with, er, 361, but it's likely Charles will still have that lead heading into Week 6 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Matt Cassel was concussed Sunday against the Ravens, meaning Brady Quinn may have to start the Buccaneers game. There's no timetable for Hillis' return, so we could see another 30-carry game for Charles prior to Kansas City's Week 7 bye.
My gut sees this story ending the same way "Romeo and Juliet" did, with all main parties deceased (i.e., out of the NFL), but given the Chiefs' easy schedule against the run, it's likely the Final Act won't come until 2013.