There are few reasons to ever get excited about a preseason football game.
Jamaal Charles gave fans one of those rare occurrences on Saturday. Since he took the field at practice for the Denver Broncos, people were champing at the bit to see what he looked like in game action. There’s been wild speculation from some that he could barely walk and didn’t look right.
That flies in the face of what I’ve seen from Charles, who looked like the Charles of old instead of an old Charles, as I said on the recent Mile High Report Radio Podcast. But until Charles got on the field for a game, cut and got hit, you had to temper that excitement.
Cue Saturday against the Green Bay Packers. The first sight of Charles in orange was an awesome one. Then he took the field and continued to look like the Charles of old, showing patience, vision, playmaking ability, intelligence and effectiveness in pass protection. He also added a needed element as a receiver, which is massive in Mike McCoy’s offense.
For the game, Charles finished with 4 carries for 27 yards, a 6.6 yards per carry average. To highlight his versatility, he also had two catches for 15 yards in the 20-17 Denver win.
“I thought Jamaal was impressive,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph told the media after the game. “I mean, he hadn’t played football in almost a year-and-a-half. To take the contact to find open space the way he did, caught the ball well and his protections were good. I was impressed with Jamaal and I was hoping he looked like that tonight. I was pleased.“
If there was any doubt that Charles would make the Broncos roster, it vanished after his showing against Green Bay. That was then confirmed by Joseph after the game.
“For the Chargers? You mean in two weeks? Yes, I hope so. Absolutely,” he said.
One person who won’t complain is Trevor Siemian. What Charles brings to the Broncos’ offense only adds to the potential for big plays.
“It’s exciting to see him at practice but the game is a whole different animal,” Siemian said. “Watching him play really well in live ball is really cool for all of us to see. We were all just like everybody else. We wanted to see him go, so that was fun.”
As Les Shapiro said on Twitter, the key now is to see how Charles responds to his first game action in a year-and-a-half. To narrow it down even more, how his knee responds to that game action. There was a brief scare in the second quarter when Charles was taken into a blue tent on Denver’s sideline. He was evaluated for a possible concussion but was cleared to return.
“It felt exciting to me, my first job today and I felt like a Bronco today,” Charles told the media after the game. “It feels good to be a Bronco today and seeing everybody running out the Mile High tunnel and everything. I felt real good, just to be out there playing with my new running back coach in ‘E’ (running backs coach Eric Studesville) and all the other running backs and C.J. (Anderson). I had a good day today and I’m excited to be a Bronco.”
There’s no question Charles had his doubters, whether in the Denver media or over in Kansas City. The person who didn’t have those doubts was Charles. The evidence has been there since he took the field, if people opened their eyes. At the same time, he didn’t have expectations of himself or add unneeded pressure to the situation.
“I just do what I do my whole life since I’ve been playing football, and I just let what y’all write in the paper about me and just be humble and go out there and just do my job and take care of my family,” he said. “I feel like I didn’t need to do nothing. I just needed to play football and do what I do every time I step on the football field. I feel like I didn’t have to prove nothing to nobody. I’ve been playing football my whole life, if they want me here, they want me here. If they don’t, they don’t. I just didn’t take it like that.”
The result is a spot on the roster, and the excitement he brought to a preseason game now carries over to the games that matter. Oh, and Joseph and the Broncos finally have the long-sought after “juice” on offense.