Chiefs roster evaluation: Running back committee comes with mixed reviews
By Byron Smith
What actually happened?
When Patrick Mahomes is the quarterback of the K.C. offense, the attention of the media will largely be centered around the game’s best player. This was no different in 2019, where every analysts focused on Mahomes from week to week in any Chiefs-centric coverage. In reality, however, the Chiefs’ running backs were just as vital to the success of the team as Mahomes in some weeks.
This was not true every week, of course, especially early in the season, when Damien Williams and McCoy both hindered the offense (via poor production and/or turnovers). McCoy was harshly criticized for his untimely fumble against the Texans, and Damien Williams had fans second guessing his contract extension from last season by averaging 2.1 yards/carry through the first full half of the season.
Fans were certain of the Chiefs need at running back, with early draft projections from this period having the Chiefs picking a running back, specifically Travis Etienne from Clemson with their first round pick. When Chiefs’ Kingdom was not disappointed in the performance of the Chiefs’ defensive backs and linebackers, they were complaining about the lack of a ground game.
Then Patrick Mahomes got hurt.
Without Patrick Mahomes to do MVP things to help the offense prosper, the rest of the team was forced to step up and carry the load. Damien Williams saw the challenge and took advantage, as he slowly returned to the form we saw in the 2018 postseason. Heput the offense on his back at midseason and picked up 202 yards in Weeks 9 and 10. He rushed for a total of 426 yards during the last 8 games of the season. (For context, he had 498 rushing all year.)
Williams’ success did not end in the regular season either. Over three postseason games, Williams ran for 196 yards, caught another 94 yards worth of passes, and found the end zone six times. He caught a touchdown pass that took the lead in the Super Bowl and put the game on ice with his long touchdown run.
It’s fortunate that Williams wore the lead back mantle so well down the stretch. McCoy was completely absent during the late season and postseason, despite being the number one option at running back in the first half of the year. As the season went on, Mccoy was featured less and less in the offense and eventually became a healthy scratch. His ability to somehow turn a busted play into a positive one was exciting and helpful in keeping drives alive early in the year, but Damien Williams more then made up for that in the second half.
Thompson was used very rarely sparingly throughout the season, typically saved for rest during long drives and late game situations. However, during a stretch of games where both Damien Williams and McCoy were inactive, Thompson was given more snaps, which he split with Spencer Ware. During that stretch, Thompson showed coaches, fans, and analyst alike that the early concerns about his pass blocking were still a prominent issue.