It wasn't so long ago that a running back was expected to carry the load for an NFL team at all times, racking up incredible amounts of rushing yards while also piling on the carries. Yet in the diversified world of today's NFL, specialists are the name of the game and a franchise's running game likely has at least two or three backs essential for the offense. For the Kansas City Chiefs, it's down to Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis.
The team has taken the tandem approach ever since installing Charles as their featured back. Charles' slight frame made the team limit his carries early in his career and Thomas Jones was the perfect bruising complement who also added a needed veteran presence for what was largely a young, inexperienced offense.
Now Hillis is the new power back, a free agent signing from this offseason intended to bolster the Chiefs' running game and help insure production if Charles is not yet fully healthy. Given his familiarity with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Hillis should be able to do everything he was brought in to do.
"I think this is going to work out magnificently," Hillis said about his a tandem possibility in the backfield with Charles. "We complement each other really well ... He's a tremendous running back with lots of speed and I think I'm a decent back who brings some power. I think it will work well."
Charles is the team's best offensive playmaker, and no one will question whether or not he'll be the featured piece in most offensive schemes. However, Charles also realizes how important it is to have that complement.
"I feel like he's the same as Thomas Jones," Charles said. "He's going to come in and get all the tough yards and all the power and I feel like that was the same thing when Thomas was here. If he can contribute to the team and put points on the board, why not?"
Last year, Charles was lost for the year due to an ACL injury but there's no doubt about his big play ability. Hillis also endured a year filled with drama and frustrations in 2011 so both players are strong bounce back candidates. The Chiefs certainly hope so since they're placing their future hopes in their hands.