He was going to make the school forget Adrian Peterson. That’s what Jamaal Charles told the media when he arrived at the University of Texas after Peterson had spurned the Longhorns for Oklahoma. Bold stuff, but Charles did enough to back it up that at times, you at least had a momentary lapse of memory if you were a fan.
I grew to appreciate Charles’ confidence when I watched him perform at Texas. In fact, there were decisions he made at the line of scrimmage that cold only be described as bold arrogance. He didn’t just challenge defenses, he was challenging himself. Kind of a personal competition to see if he could get to that huge cutback lane all the way across the formation even when it wasn’t the wisest decision.
As a teammate this would probably frustrate me. As a fan, I got the feeling Charles sometimes got bored with taking what was in front of him. He wanted to stretch himself and take what he could see. Charles is now one of the most exciting runners in the NFL, but for the first couple of years it was far from a guarantee that it was going to happen. Here’s one of the evaluations I did on Charles when I evaluated him for the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. For additional samples of player evaluations go to this page on this blog.
Game Stats vs. Arizona State 12/27/2007
Rushing: 27-161-2 Receiving: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 11 yards. First Downs: 6 Fumbles: 1 Broken Tackles: 3 Pass Protection Assignments: 3 Assignments Completed: 3
Good vision on a sideline packed with pursuing ASU defenders to press the alley made by his WR engaged in a block and then cutting off it to dip to the sideline for a 9-yard gain. There’s no question that Charles has excellent vision, but there was a play that demonstrated the difference between making a good, safe choice and a risky, flashy one. On 1st and 10 with 10:30 in the 1st quarter, Charles took a draw out of the spread formation. As he was going up the middle the right and left edge rushers had gone too far upfield but the DT had penetration directly in front of Charles at the line of scrimmage. Charles had a smaller alley in front of the edge rusher being blocked off at the right but a wide open flat with downfield
blocking 10 and 15 yards ahead. To the left side was a huge opening, but CB unblocked by the WR at the sideline and an LB coming free at the line of scrimmage at the left edge. Charles chose to attempt a spin move to the left side as a way to avoid the DT and get ot the huge space. He only gained yard as he tripped over the diving DT. A lateral cut would have been much more effective regardless of the direction he chose.
Great patience on the 48 yard run off left end. He knew exactly how to time his burst. His paitence between the tackles is sometimes lacking. With 4:48 in the 1st quarter, he once again attempted a spin move, this time to the right side as he didn’t find anything off the LG and lost three yards. It was a spectacular spin, but if he had stretched the play to left end, he might have gained 5-7 yards on the play. The only player in the NFL who routinely got away with spin moves behind
the line of scrimmage was Barry Sanders. Marshall Faulk could do it in the open field. Charles has that kind of suddenness, but he takes unnecessary risks up the middle.
Charles was very patient on his 15-yard score with 1:34 in the 1st quarter. He took the spread handoff from the right side and bounced to the left then cut back off LT, breaking an arm tackle around his waist that
temporarily slowed him down before bursting untouched for the remaining 15 yards and the score. The question is whether Charles has enough quickness to dart east-west at the line of scrimmage before choosing a hole this patiently in the pros. I don’t think he will and believe he’ll need to become more decisive against faster defenses.
Charles did not adequately press the hole on a 2nd a 6 with 8:18 in the half. He only gained a yard, because he didn’t press the hole to the point of getting behind the RG and RT to get the LBs to over-pursue to the right edge and then cut back off the RG and C. He lost a yard on a 1st and 10 with 6:16 on a run off RG where two LBs were shooting a huge gap from 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage. If Charles bounced it around the edge, he would have gained positive yardage but tried to jump cut through a very small crease.
Charles’ best run up the middle was 6-yard gain with 0:20 in the half, but the alley was so big that he got all 6 yards before he was touched for the first time. He saw the huge opening to the left, but could not make a
sharp enough lateral cut to avoid the oncoming DBs to reach it. Nice job slashing through an opening on the backside of a run initially to the left edge. He hit the hole hard for 6 yards on the play. He’ll made a very good decision one play and an equally bad one the next. He ran straight into the line on a play he could have bounced to the left with 4:23 in the 3rd quarter.
Charles ran through a defender’s attempt to arm tackle him at the shoulder pads on his 9-yard reception/run down the right sideline. On a 3-yard loss with 4:44 in the 1st quarter. Charles tried to put a stiff arm on the DB in pursuit after he spun to the right, but he could not knock down or neutralize the DB with it and he was run out of bounds. Charles continued to drive through an LB’s wrap up around is waist in the hole and break the tackled for a 15-yard score with 1:30 in the 1st quarter. He has that slippery power that comes from understanding how to angle his body in such a way that defenders can’t get a clean shot on him. This ability to defeat angles creates arm tackles for him to shed rather than full hits.
Charles was knocked backwards on a run off LG with 9:14 in the 3rd quarter. Good job leaning forward for extra yards on a 5-yard run with 5:36 in the same quarter. A few plays before on a 6-yard run, Charles did the same thing to finish. With 1:31 in the 3rd quarter, Charles was wrapped up by the LB after gaining two yards, but he leaned forward to drag the defender a couple more yards downfield with him. He does have a subtle stiff arm that works well in the openfield while moving north-south, but he doesn’t really have the strength at this point of his development to use it while running in an east-west direction.
Charles did a good job switching the ball to his sideline arm after making his first catch on the swing pass with 14:00 in the 1st quarter. He can carry the ball just as effectively with either arm. He carried the ball under both arms at different points during the first two drives of the game. Still it’s important to note that Charles has had four fumbles in four games this year. During this game, Charles and the QB collided with each other and the ball bounced out of the QBs hands. Charles was execting a handoff and the QB was rolling ot the left when they hit each other. Charles later lost the ball with 8:35 in the 3rd quarter when a defender hit his ball-carrying arm on the tail-end of the 2-yard gain off LG.
On 2nd and 4, he bounced a run out of the I-formation to the left corner and was hit head-on twice and knocked backwards before he could get the first down. After the first hit on this play, Charles was beginning to lean towards the marker but the second hit was from an LB and the entire side of the defender’s body hit flush with Charles to move the RB backwards. Throughout the game, Charles repeatedly spun away from direct hits at the line of scrimmage or spun out of a hit at an angle in pursuit. He didn’t demonstrate the ability to make big plays off the spin, but he didn’t go down on the first hit, either.
Charles has excellent burst. He took a 3rd and 3 handoff with 14:09 in the opening quarter and made two stop-start moves behind the line of scrimmage before bursting around the corner past four ASU defenders–all second and third level defenders before running about of bounds for a 16-yard gain. This was against eight men in the box. His burst is very sudden, it’s like a hair-trigger reaction that a defender senses could go off at the slightest indication of open space. With 7:21 in the 1st quarter, Charles went around left end from the spread formation and he showed excellent patience following his blocks to the edge. When he got 2 yards past the line of scrimmage, he accelerated past the angle of the OLB and the safety 4 yards ahead for a gain of 48 yards down the sideline. If DB #4 weren’t 20 yards downfield waiting on Charles, the RB scores.
Excellent stop-start movement. Charles can acclerate to fullspeed very quickly. His stop-start with an LB within a yard of him behind the line of scrimmage was so quick, Charles might as well have been 3 yards away, because he turned the corner and beat the defender’s angle easily. He made a stop-start move on his reception with 14:00 in the 1st quarter that froze the pursuit and allowed him to beat the angle of 4 defenders at the sideline for a 9-yard gain. Very light on his feet–he bounced a run to the opening on the left edge when he spotted the alley out of the I-formation with 9:23 in the 1st quarter. He has all the lateral moves, jump cuts, and spin moves in his repetoire one could ask from a back.
His first block was a passive chip as the penetration moved into him with 13:42 in the 1st quarter. Charles made an effective cut block on a DB downfield during a draw play with 9:53 in the 1st quarter. Charles knocked the legs from under the DB. Charles made a key block on the backside edge rusher with 1:55 in the 1st quarter to help the QB complete a 55-yard pass down the right sidline to his WR. Charles needs to be more aggressive initiating the contact rather than waiting for the defender to hit him and knock him back. Charles had a few opportunities to block downfield when his QB was scrambling, but he chose to either run out of the path of the play or try to run off the defender near him.
His second touch of the game was a swing pass that he caught with his hands first and back to the LOS. He gained 9 yards on the play, picking through 4 ASU defenders on the right sideline. Charles caught a swing pass 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage on 2nd and 21 with 11:40 in the half and made two players miss, breaking an arm tackle of a 3rd to gain two yards on the play. Once again, good job catching the ball with his hands.
His burst/acceleration and the understanding of how to time it makes Charles a game-breaking runner. He has good hands as a receiver and his open field moves allow him to make the most of any opportunity with the ball in his hands. He can make all the cuts, spins, and hesitation moves imaginable from a running back. He knows how to defeat angles to create arm tackle opportunities out of what should have been a flush hit for the defender. Charles slides off arm tackles effectively and he’s a slashing runner capable of breaking any attempt for a huge play. He is one of the more exciting runners in this draft.
He needs to learn to make wiser choices as an inside runner. He either doesn’t bounce plays outside when it’s the best choice for the play, or he will wait too long at the line of scrimmage before making a decision. Sometimes he’ll just make a risky move to elude a defender behind the line of scrimmage. He clearly sees the holes, but he doesn’t always show the patience to press the holes to cut back on inside runs. He has patience as a runner, but he doesn’t always make the best decision. If he can continue to improve his decisions within an offense’s blocking schemes and get a little stronger physically, he’ll be a dynamic NFL play maker. His greatest weakness is his tendency to fumble the football. Charles is a dangerous prospect for a team to acquire in multiple ways. If he develops his vision, strength, and minimizes fumbles, he’ll be a star. If he doesn’t improve at least the vision and ball protection, he’ll disappoint.