There have been so many problems with the Denver Broncos this season, the head scratcher that is the Jamaal Charles situation has been overlooked.
The Broncos have paid Jamaal Charles as if they expected him to be real close to Jamaal again: $2.34 million so far with a chance to make another $156,250 merely for dressing in the final two games. Total payout if he does dress: $2.5 million.
Yet, Charles is averaging a mere 6.6 touches and 30.4 combined rushing and receiving yards a game. Those are journeyman, fill-in numbers.
He was in for just two plays and had zero touches in the Broncos’ 25-13 win against the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night. This couldn't have been what the Broncos initially had in mind when they signed Charles to his one-year contract in May.
“I’m not tripping, man,’’ Charles said after the Broncos’ win. “I want to play. It hurts I’m not playing. It hurts my feelings. I mean deep down, it hurts. But I’m supportive of my teammates. That’s all I can do.
“Ten years, if this is my last year, this is my last year if nobody wants me.
“But I’m just happy I can continue to dress up every week. That’s a dream right there. I’ve got good guys in front of me. So, at the end of the day, it’s not my turn yet. I’m patiently waiting. I’ve got two good guys in front of me and I’m going to control what I can control.’’
Charles, who turns 31 in 10 days, is a running back who rushed for 1,509 yards in 2012 with Kansas City and had 70 catches for 693 yards in 2013. He’s rushed for 7,556 yards in his career on an NFL-record 5.4 yards per carry. Add in his receiving totals and he’s produced more than 10,000 yards from scrimmage.
But the Broncos only saw this Hall of Fame-caliber running back in brief flashes. Charles' contract included $1.25 million worth of incentives but he has yet to hit his first modest threshold of 500 yards rushing and receiving combined.
He currently has 296 yards rushing and 129 yards receiving for 425 combined yards from scrimmage.
Mostly, Charles has watched as starter C.J. Anderson has a chance for his first 1,000-yard rushing season and Devontae Booker, who missed the first three games with torn wrist ligaments, is now leaping over defensive backs in his second season.
“It’s no different than the Patriots when you watch the Patriots,’’ said Broncos head coach Vance Joseph. “They’ve got three guys each game. So, whoever’s hot gets touches and each game we have a plan for all three guys and how the game proceeds determines who plays more.
“C.J.’s our pounder. Book’s our run-pass guy and Jamaal’s our sweep, outside run, screen guy. It depends how the game proceeds. I’ve been pleased with Jamaal. When he’s been healthy, he’s been explosive. And the plan was to limit his touches so we didn’t lose him midseason.’’
It was understandable the Broncos initially babied Charles’ workload after he suffered two torn ACLs in his career and had limited playing time because of knee surgeries his final two seasons in Kansas City.
But even as the offense struggled during an eight-game losing streak that quashed the team’s playoff hopes, Charles’ playing time declined.
Charles is averaging just 4.9 carries and 1.6 catches a game for the Broncos. And those numbers figure to decrease as the Broncos plan to dress rookie back De’Angelo Henderson in the final two games.
Which is part two of the Jamaal head-scratcher: Why, after the Broncos were eliminated from playoff contention, was Henderson not playing if they weren't using Charles?
“I’m just happy to win, go to work every day,’’ said Charles. “I work my butt off every day. I can’t complain. I can only control what I can control. Wake up in the morning, kiss my kids, go to work, get my work in and go back home.’’