Charcandrick West has experienced a number of firsts this season: His first carry, his first start, his first 100-yard game, his first touchdown.
The Kansas City Chiefs running back has taken advantage of the opportunity afforded him by the season-ending injury to Jamaal Charles.
“It’s crazy,” West said in a phone interview. “Before the season started, I hadn’t expected to get this many carries, but to be in this situation is a dream.”
West went undrafted out of Abilene Christian, where the closest he came to a 1,000-yard season was the 906 yards he rushed for as a senior. He signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2014 despite the presence of Pro Bowler Charles.
“I just knew playing behind Jamaal that there was so much he could teach me,” said West, who finished with 2,073 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns in his four seasons in Abilene. “There is so much he has taught me. He’s helped me with pass pro, how to study…. He’s helped me learn to play in the NFL basically, and how to be a pro.”
West stuck on the Chiefs’ practice squad his rookie season. They elevated him to the 53-player roster during the season, and West got on the field for six games. But he never carried the ball, biding his time, waiting his turn.
“It was hard,” West said. “You want to be that guy. You want to carry the football. But patience is everything in this business.”
West passed Knile Davis on the depth chart for the backup job in Week 4, but he gained only 17 yards on five carries and caught one pass for 4 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals. The next week, the Chiefs lost Charles to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the star running back’s right knee.
“He went down and the first thing he did was he told me I had to step up,” West said. “You hate to see anybody go down, especially a good friend, but I had to do what I could to help the team. In this league, it’s next man up.”
The Chiefs signed Spencer Ware from the practice squad, and he and West have rotated ever since, with the hot hand getting the most carries. Despite not having Charles, the Chiefs still rank seventh in rushing, maintaining their identity as a run-first team.
“We complement each other really well,” West said. “We’re both young, and we don’t worry about individual stuff. We both just want to help the team win.”
West gained 110 yards and scored a touchdown on 22 carries in the Chiefs’ 23-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 25. It was his first 100-yard game and his first touchdown.
“My running backs coach, Eric Bieniemy, told me, ‘Anybody can do something once. Go do this again and again,’” West said.
West had 97 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries the following week. For the season, he has 107 carries for 408 yards and three touchdowns.
“When you don’t get drafted, you always have those doubts that maybe you’re not good enough,” West said. “But I always had that feeling I could play in this league if I just got the chance.”
My five cents
1 The Cleveland Browns probably will hire a new coach after the season. Over the next four games, they will find out if they need to use the No. 1 choice on a quarterback. Coach Mike Pettine has changed quarterbacks four times in five games, going back to Johnny Manziel this week. The former Texas A&M star will make his fourth start of the season.
2The San Francisco 49ers stand among the teams potentially in the market for a new quarterback in the off-season. They have until April 1 to decide whether to guarantee $13.7 million worth of Colin Kaepernick’s contract for next season. Kaepernick can expect to get his pink slip. Blaine Gabbert, 2-2 since taking over for Kaepernick, has a year remaining on his contract.
3 The Philadelphia Eagles will take a salary-cap hit of $4 million in 2016 if they release DeMarco Murray, who played only 14 snaps last week. They also owe him a fully guaranteed base salary of $7 million, which would go to his new team if he’s claimed off waivers or offset by whatever his base salary is with his new team if he signs as a free agent. But the biggest reason the Eagles might hold onto Murray next season is to avoid risking his return to the Cowboys.
4 Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller needs only 320 yards for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. The last Miami player to accomplish that was Ricky Williams in 2002-03 when he ran for 1,853 yards and 1,372 yards. Miller, who turns 25 in April, could be in demand in the off-season if the Dolphins don’t re-sign him before he hits free agency.
5 Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who leads the league with 13.5 sacks, should join Lawrence Taylor as the only players in history to win the league’s defensive player of the year award three times. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who coached Taylor while the defensive coordinator was with the Giants, compared the two. “There are very few players I would put in same conversation with Lawrence Taylor; I would put J.J. in there,” Belichick said.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 1,533 yards and 10 touchdowns the past four games. The Steelers averaged 36 points in those four games and won three of them.
St. Louis Rams left tackle Greg Robinson, the second overall pick in 2014, has allowed 3.5 sacks, according to STATS. He has eight holding penalties and three false starts. This week, Robinson draws Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, whose 12.5 sacks rank second in the NFL.
4 Giants losses this season after leading in the final minute. That ties them for the most such losses by any team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
2016 NFL Draft
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com gives his projections for teams selecting 11-20 for the 2016 draft based on current standings:
11. St. Louis Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
12. Detroit Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
13. New York Giants Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
14. Tampa Bay Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
15. Oakland A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
16. Chicago Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
17. Buffalo Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
18. Atlanta Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
19. New York Jets Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
20. Pittsburgh Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
The Green Bay Packers have not turned the ball over in seven of their 12 games this season. The single-season team record is eight in 2009.
The Carolina Panthers have won 16 consecutive regular-season games, an NFC record.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has taken 32 hits the past three games.
Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler has taken a sack once every 10.9 pass plays. That compares with once every 22.5 pass plays for Peyton Manning.
The Steelers have gained at least 450 yards in four consecutive games. That ties Kansas City (2004), Miami (1994) and Houston (1961) for the longest such streak in a single season in NFL history.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor leads the NFL with a 117.0 passer rating in the fourth quarter.
The Chicago Bears have scored 18 points in the third quarters of their games this season. They have yet to score a touchdown in the period.
The Indianapolis Colts have won 16 consecutive AFC South games.
The Baltimore Ravens have allowed the least passing yards per game (164) and the second-fewest total yards per game (257) the past four games.
The Detroit Lions have allowed only 58 yards per game rushing the past four games.
The New Orleans Saints have won 29 of 47 meetings against Tampa Bay, with their .617 winning percentage the highest of any opponent.
Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown 19 touchdowns. Steve McNair was the team’s last quarterback with at least 20 in a season, accomplishing that for the last time in 2003 with 24.
Information from The Sports Xchange was used in this report.