What does the running back room look like for 2022 and what to expect if CEH were to miss time?
@ChiefsFan4Lyfe Chiefs Focus @Chiefsfocus
The Kansas City Chiefs are about to wrap up training camp and the preseason. For the majority of the veterans, the heavy lifting is over. Most of them for the Chiefs will play in the final preseason finale at home against the Green Bay Packers.
For them camp is effectively over already focusing on the regular season. But for players on the edge of making the roster, this week means everything. For the players, there’s no fun and games at this point. Jobs are at stake including at running back where the incumbent is 3-year vet, Clyde Edwards-Helaire who was expected to begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list due to a failed physical the day before the vets camp started but returned back very quickly.
Edwards-Helaire, 23, has been beset by injuries throughout last season. He missed five games from Week 6-10 with a sprained MCL. A shoulder injury also kept him out of the final two games of the regular season and the AFC Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A first-round 32nd overall pick by the Chiefs in the 2020 NFL draft, many critics bring up that Edwards-Helaire hasn’t lived up to his potential thus far. He’s appeared in 23 games in his two NFL seasons, rushing for 1,320 yards and eight touchdowns. He did have 1,100 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns as a rookie. That 2020 version, especially when healthy, is the form that the Chiefs expect to see out of the former-LSU product.
If Edwards-Helaire were to miss time and was put on the PUP list before the start of the regular season, it opens up the RB1 competition with Jerick McKinnon sharing the load of first reps with up and coming rising rookie Isiah Pacheco. With memorable moments in the AFC Playoffs, McKinnon proved to have the “IT-Factor” and was a breakout player in the playoffs.
McKinnon was lights out in the playoffs, he had 142 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches in the 42-21 win over the Steelers, and looked like a beast in the back field. McKinnon will handle third down duties for the Chiefs. He is extremely quick, blocks well for Mahomes to find time to find his open man and has great hands out of the backfield.
Both Pacheco and McKinnon will contribute in different ways which is what the Chiefs will feel really good about. Pacheco is a guy who the Chiefs can win games with because of his good speed, burst, contact balance, and physicality to finish runs.
These traits along with his good competitive toughness in short yardage and goal line situations he’s displayed in preseason play will make him a productive RB in any area of the field this coming season. What I saw from Pacheco showed me flashes of Knile Davis and no not the fumbling issue. He must improve his vision and mental processing to recognize and anticipate blocking leverage finding running lanes created by our offensive line.
Once he takes care of that small issue, watch out NFL. Pacheco has made the most out of his opportunities this preseason with 9 touches for 35 yards. Pacheco hasn’t taken the field in the second half of both preseason games. It shows that Pacheco will likely be in the starting mix for running back carries. Whether he is the outright starter or just splits carries with Edwards-Helaire remains to be seen, but this is a huge positive sign for the rookie.
That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs keep 3 running backs and try to keep Derrick Gore and or Tayon Fleet-Davis on the practice squad. Ronald Jones is looking like the odd man out. Which might have surprised many because it looks like he’s beginning to start pressing the whole training camp.
I think the pressure and the competition with McKinnon and Pacheco and competing for the job. It’s not good that we aren’t seeing the same guy that we saw coming out of USC or the 2020 version of himself that helped the Buccaneers win Super Bowl 55 especially when Gore and Fleet-Davis get more reps than him in the first two preseason games. I still believe that Jones is a really good football player but he’s yet to distinguish himself like McKinnon and Pacheco have.
Because of this, either Jones will be a trade candidate or be cut before the 53-man roster deadline on August 30. Both Edwards-Helaire and Pacheco are currently playing on their rookie contracts. Edwards-Helaire has two more years left while Pacheco is just beginning with a four year deal. McKinnon is scheduled to hit free agency after the season. Watch for the Chiefs to utilize this RB by committee as the plan this season. Again, if Edwards-Helaire were to miss time, the Chiefs have a pair of competent running backs who are capable of taking on larger roles either running or catching the ball for big time plays.