Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles ranks third in the NFL in rushing. (Colin E. Braley/Associated Press) Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles ranks third in the NFL in rushing. (Colin E. Braley/Associated Press)

As they take the field against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Washington Redskins’ defensive players have a clear mission: stop Jamaal Charles.

The two-time Pro Bowl running back enters the game ranked third in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy with 1,011 rushing yards and averages 4.6 yards per carry. Charles has nine rushing touchdowns this season (second in the league).

The Chiefs use the running game to set up their offense, and so containing Charles will be a top priority for the Redskins. Kansas City also relies heavily on Charles in the passing game. He leads the team with 55 catches – many of them coming on screen passes, much like how Andy Reid utilized Brian Westbrook in Philadelphia.

“Everybody has to be gap sound,” said inside linebacker Perry Riley, who leads the Redskins with 91 tackles. “They’re a great football team when it comes to running the ball. The offensive line blocks well, and Jamaal Charles runs as well as anybody in the league right now. So everybody needs to stay in their lanes, and we have to make sure we’re on top of Charles in the screen game. They like to get him out, dump it off to him. He’s as fast as any running back you’ll find. So that’s the most important thing.”

The Redskins have fared well against the run. After getting off to a woeful start — surrendering 184 yards to McCoy in the season opener and 132 yards to James Starks of the Packers in Week 2 — Washington’s defense hasn’t allowed another running back to rush for 100 yards.

Charles ranks among the fastest backs they will face all year, however. McCoy has impressive speed, but Charles has a different style.

“He doesn’t do a lot of moves. That’s not the strength of his game, in my opinion. He’s more just a straight-ahead runner,” Riley said. “He reminds me a little bit of [Tennessee’s] Chris Johnson. He has the home run speed of Chris Johnson but he hits the holes harder. Chris Johnson is a little patient, but Charles just gets the ball and goes. But, speed-wise, he reminds me of Chris Johnson. When he gets in the open field, he can take it the distance in the blink of an eye.”

With the Chiefs averaging just 213 passing yards per game, the Redskins will try to force them in that direction by eliminating Charles from the equation, Riley said. If they can succeed in that area, they like chances for success.

“It’s going to help a lot,” Riley said. “They say the weather’s going to be pretty bad, so of course they’re going to try to run it. They’re a running team anyway, so we want to try to take away the run, put the ball in Alex Smith’s hands and make him beat us throwing the ball. I’m not saying they can’t throw the ball, but passing the ball is not their strength. It’s running the ball. So we want to take that away.”