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Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs waits in the bench area during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Camp Countdown: How much does Jamaal Charles have left in the tank?

Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs waits in the bench area during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

 

The Denver Broncos have unveiled their schedule for training camp 2017. Things kick off at UC Health Training Center in Englewood on July 27, and the fans will get to watch the early stages of the 2017 Broncos.

The Broncos have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. It will be a difficult process to find the best 53-man roster possible—and it will take most of the month of August to do so.

There will be positional battles at multiple spots as the Broncos establish their depth chart for the 2017 season. This pecking order will largely be determined by players’ performances in training camp.

In this edition of “Camp Countdown” we’ll take a closer look at former Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. How healthy is he and what’s his best role for the Broncos in 2017? Let’s take a look.

How much left in the tank?

After the Broncos signed Charles as a free agent, this is a question I posed to Chiefs sources that I talk to. “Close to empty” was the message I mostly received from these sources on the team.

The Broncos decided to give Charles a chance on a one-year deal even though he’s only appeared in eight games over the last two years due to injury. Charles signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the chance to earn another $2.75 million with incentives.

There’s a chance that Charles can return to form as he’ll mostly be fresh after two seasons with little usage. There’s also a chance that Charles will never be the same and will fail to make the 53-man roster. The outlook for Charles in 2017 wildly varies and it will be determined by his health status.

Charles was limited during OTAs and minicamp. Most days Charles was seen lightly jogging off to the side. As minicamp wrapped up, Charles was not at full speed but he was doing some cutting during individual drills.

Chip on his shoulder

When talking to Charles, one thing is clear – he’s burned by the fact the Chiefs let him go. The first time I got to talk to Charles he was still salty about the way things ended in Kansas City.

“They fired me, man!” Charles exclaimed when I asked him about the reaction from Chiefs fans since he signed with an AFC West rival.

This chip on his shoulder is going to be omnipresent in 2017. Charles still thinks he can be “the man” in the NFL, and if he is what he used to be then it’s easy to make the argument that he’s the best back on the roster.

Charles is certainly motivated to prove the doubters wrong this season. Even if he’s not quite what he used to be, an angry Charles can be a productive – and a dangerous player for the Broncos.

Best role in McCoy’s offense

While Charles still thinks he can be a dangerous lead back, perhaps it’s best for the Broncos to use him in more of a change-of-pace role in 2017. With health as his biggest question mark, it would be best for the Broncos to use Charles sparingly this season. If he stays healthy, Charles could see his workload increase as the season goes on – and as the Broncos hopefully make a postseason run.

Under offensive coordinator Mike McCoy a part-time back can have plenty of work. Charles could play a role similar to what Danny Woodhead did for the (then) San Diego Chargers under McCoy.

Woodhead tore his ACL in 2016 and was limited to just four games but in 2015 he touched the ball almost 160 times on offense and had over 1,000 yards combined rushing and receiving. Projecting Charles for those type of numbers (97 carries, 335 rushing yards, three touchdowns, 81 catches, 756 receiving yards and six touchdowns) this season is not outlandish.

Charles may not be able (or best suited) to play a full-time role for the Broncos this year, but he can be quite important to the offense with limited touches.