The K.C. Chiefs got back to their familiar winning ways this week, beating the Washington Football team with a strong, albeit uneven, performance.
Darrel Williams, filling in for the injured Clyde Edwards-Helaire, turned in an especially impressive game. While his yardage numbers were relatively modest—21 carries for 62 yards on the ground along with 3 catches for 27 yards—Williams punched in two crucial goal line touchdowns that enabled the Chiefs to establish a lead despite not playing sharply. Williams also converted a key 4th and 1, scampering for 5 yards on a drive that ended with a touchdown, which Williams ran in.
In a game where Mahomes and the offense were hot and cold, Williams was a nice breath of consistency, scoring touchdowns in each half. Williams ran the ball with decisiveness, making the correct decisions quickly, and hitting holes as they opened up. He didn’t spring for a huge run, but he showed excellent vision, especially on runs in high-leverage situations. Take, for instance, Williams’ 4th down run early in the first quarter.
Darrel Williams looks deserving of a bigger role in Chiefs backfield.
Williams immediately identifies the cutback lane, quickly adjusts his body, and maneuvers forward for the first down. Again, nothing splashy, just correct, decisive execution in a moment that required it. A lot of Williams’ runs were like that: 4 or 5 yard runs that were crisp, correct exploitations of what was in front of him. It was one of those plays, where, had he gotten stuffed or made the wrong read, the Chiefs turn the football over, and the story of the game changes, It was an impressive performance in a game that, in my opinion, was a must-win for the Chiefs.
Williams has done enough for this team, recently and in years past, for us to wonder if he deserves a bigger workload, perhaps even as the primary running back for this team going forward. This contention obviously requires talking about Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and comparing the two in terms of what they bring to the offense.
On the one-hand, Edwards-Helaire is averaging 4.7 yards per carry to Williams’ 3.4 average. He’s been more efficient than Williams this year, simply by that fact. Edwards-Helaire had also turned in a couple impressive performances recently, with 100 yard games against the Chargers and Eagles. Those two performances may have been a signal of things to come for Edwards-Helaire. Additionally, it might be the case that broader attitude toward Edwards-Helaire comes from that costly fumble vs. the Ravens, a salient moment that might not mean as much as it seems in terms of evaluating him.
Yet some of Edwards-Helaire weaknesses seem to be the very things that Darrel Williams is good with: vision, decisiveness, ability to “run people over” to name a few. Williams, who is not the athlete Edwards-Helaire is, seems to overcome this athletic difference simply due to his ability to commit to a running lane and make the most of it.
Williams has a bit more power to him, too, and doesn’t shy from contact. That kind of disposition is quite useful in the goal line and short yardage situations. Williams, for what it’s worth, has adequate speed and shiftiness too. To reiterate, Williams partly compensates for average speed by his quick decision-making and commitment to running lanes.
Edwards-Helaire has yet to play in 20 NFL games, so it’s perfectly reasonable, if not likely, that he can continue to develop into a more complete running back. By “complete” I mean someone who can handle goal line duties or be relied upon to break a tackle in short-yardage situations. I certainly do not think we’ve seen the best of the Edwards-Helaire, and believe the Chiefs’ improved run-blocking will help him long term. But Darrel Williams seems to provide a set of skills that, at least today, helped the Chiefs win a football game. Maybe he helps the Chiefs more moving forward, too.
Perhaps the Chiefs should approach the next few games as a sort of “tryout” for Williams. If this weeks game was the first test for Williams, though, he certainly passed.