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Chiefs mailbag: Distribution of backfield carries

Projecting second-year running back Knile Davis’ role this season and remaining questions from organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp are in the spotlight for this weekend’s mailbag.

Two-time All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles remains the top backfield option. However, it wouldn’t surprise if second-year pro Knile Davis, who is the clear No. 2 running back, sees more action in a complementary role.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid indicated that could be the case on at least two separate occasions during the offseason.

“Knile was a rookie and he was learning every week and getting better every week,” Reid said on Feb. 20 at the NFL Scouting Combine. “As the season went on, we were able to give him the ball a little bit more. I think coming into this season, we’ll be able to mix it up a little bit better than what we did early in the season last year.”

Reid also addressed mixing in Davis on March 25 at the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla.

“I think Knile is a big part of it and he ended up being a big part of it,” the Chiefs head coach said then. “I was able to actually give Jamaal a blow because of Knile’s progress. I thought Knile picked it up quite a bit, too. (He’s a) big strong kid, too.”

Dec 29, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Knile Davis (34) celebrates a touchdown at Qualcomm Stadium. Credit: Stan Liu-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 29, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Knile Davis (34) celebrates a touchdown at Qualcomm Stadium. Credit: Stan Liu-USA TODAY Sports

Davis’ workload definitely increased as the season progressed, especially in the final four games of the regular season.

He recorded 22 carries for 95 yards in Weeks 1-13, but closed out the final four games with 48 carries for 147 yards and four touchdowns, including 27 carries for 81 yards and two scores in a Week 17 start. Davis added 11 catches for 75 yards on the season.

Still, an even split of touches between Davis and Charles is a large stretch given what Charles, who at 27 remains on the right side of 30, means to the offense.

An ideal approach for Davis is 8-10 combined touches per game (rushing and receiving) to keep Charles fresh. It also makes sense to deploy Davis as the short-yardage rusher or whenever the Chiefs are inside the opponent’s 5-yard line.

At 5-10, 227 pounds, Davis is the brute force to Charles’ poetry in motion.

He’s capable of taking over in the event Charles misses time with an injury, evidenced in the playoffs when Charles sustained a concussion early in the first quarter. Davis stepped in and totaled 100 yards (67 rushing) and two touchdowns before leaving the game with a leg injury.

And the coaching staff has confidence if the Chiefs need to lean on Davis this season.

“Knile has taken a tremendous jump mentally,” running backs coach Eric Bieniemy said on Day Five of organized team activities (OTAs). “The beauty of it is last year was his first time going through it. Now he’s been through it. Now we’re just rehearsing everything and we’re going over the things we made mistakes on. He has a better awareness of what’s going on with the game.”

Left tackle Eric Fisher said on the first day of the Chiefs offseason workout program he’s lifting weights within the confines of his recovery from offseason shoulder injury.

“I am lifting upper body,” Fisher told reporters on April 21. “I’m just not lifting upper body like I want to. Some stuff is limited. It’s all part of the process. When that time comes, I’m going to hit it hard.”

Meanwhile, Fisher gained mass from his 2013 playing weight of 295-300 pounds to a current 310-315 pounds.

“I think he feels good at his weight and he’s been working hard in that weight room,” Chiefs offensive line coach Andy Heck said of Fisher on Day Five of OTAs. “So I think it’s going to be a positive for him.”

While Fisher didn’t participate in team-related 11-on-11 or 9-on-7 drills throughout OTAs and minicamp, he was able to get work in during individual position drills.

The Chiefs expect last year’s first-round draft pick to be ready for training camp.

Last year’s primary backup quarterback Chase Daniel, second-year pro Tyler Bray and rookie Aaron Murray (knee) each had their good and bad moments from what I observed during OTAs and minicamp. 

But the trick is getting beyond the illusion of shorts and pads. The proper gauge of where they are in the offense will arrive in training camp when the pads come on and contact ensues.

Nevertheless, Reid complimented Bray’s development from last season, citing growth.

“He’s kind of worked his way in where he’s gained the players that are around him their respect,” Reid said of Bray on the final day of OTAs. “I’m proud of him for that.”

Alex Smith led the rotation during OTAs and minicamp, followed by Daniel, Bray and Murray. Given the current group of backups and what each brings to the table, it will be interesting to see how the Chiefs deal with this position in training camp.

The Chiefs had an open roster spot prior to claiming cornerback Brandon Jones off waivers from the San Diego Chargers on Thursday. With Jones in the mix, the Chiefs are now at the league maximum of 90 for the offseason roster.

Of course, the Chargers waived Jones on Wednesday to make room for former Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers.

Jones, who measures 6-1, 187 pounds, became the 11th cornerback currently on the roster and provides more depth ahead of training camp.

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