The Kansas City Chiefs are coming off a great win this past Sunday against another AFC competitor, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Diving deeper into their 36-10 victory at Arrowhead, the talent and depth of the Chiefs roster shined through.
While Patrick Mahomes had a terrific night, there was another unexpected player who people were talking about towards the end of the game: Chiefs running back Derrick Gore. But before we talk about Gore’s night, let’s go for a spin down memory lane.
Looking back into the preseason, there was a lot of hype around the Kansas City Chiefs and this ‘revenge tour’ of theirs. During the Chiefs preseason win streak, Gore really made a name for himself as a lower-tier running back on the depth chart. As a UDFA from Louisiana-Monroe, Gore put up numerous big yardage runs and it stuck with the coaches, players, and the fans.
In the aftermath, fans started to call for Gore more and more which made him somewhat of a fan favorite. After signing with the team as a futures signing last winter, Gore landed a spot on the team’s practice squad after active roster cuts in the preseason. From there, he was elevated to the active roster by Week 6 and he’s stuck around ever since.
Derrick Gore has really emerged as a nice option in the Chiefs backfield.
In Week 16, Gore, who has an aggressive running style, was able to really put on a clinic with some of his runs against the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, this wasn’t his first impressive game. Gore has actually had a few this season, with his first real chance coming against the New York Giants in Week 7.
In that game against the Giants, Gore rushed the ball 11 times for 48 yards which amounted to 4.36 yards/carry. Along with those 48 yards rushing, he was also able to record his first touchdown in the NFL.
Only a couple of weeks later, Gore found himself receiving six carries against the Las Vegas Raiders. In those six carries, he had only 19 rushing yards and no touchdowns, but he would look much better the second time around against the rivals. Now, you could argue that this shouldn’t really be a testimony to his game because it was all garbage time snaps. However, he made the most of them. In his nine carries, he had 66 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Additionally, he had two receptions for 23 yards.
Now, we are back to the Steelers and this was the best performance by Gore we’ve seen yet, not just because of the stats, but because of what he showed us he could do. In this past week’s game against the Steelers, Gore received 12 carries for 43 yards. Furthermore, he also had three receptions for 61 yards including a big-time play down the sideline.
Derrick Gore Gives the Chiefs Rushing Attack A Strong Push
So now that we covered the statistical part of his game, let’s talk about what Gore provides for the Chiefs running back room and how Andy Reid can utilize his talents as they get ready to head into the playoffs.
The Chiefs have a running back room that currently consists of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, and when he comes back, Jerick McKinnon. Every running back has roles that Reid uses to help life this offense and give them a different element.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who is currently listed as questionable for the foreseeable future, has been the Chiefs starting running back for most of this season but was out for a couple of weeks while he dealt with a sprained MCL. Unfortunately, this week against the Steelers, he left the game early with a collarbone/shoulder injury that appeared to bring him a lot of pain. It was later reported that the tests came back negative, so he shouldn’t be sidelined for too much longer.
When Edwards-Helaire comes back, the Chiefs will likely continue using him as RB1, which is understandable. However, what does CEH bring to the table? That’s where it gets a little bit tricky to answer because his biggest problem is the lack of volume. However, based upon last season and what he’s done this season, he tends to be the guy they go to as they move the ball upfield in more run-oriented opportunities, meaning he’s usually in on early-down plays.
Next, let’s talk about backup running back Darrel Williams. His role on the team is a little bit easier to diagnose because he’s generally the more trustworthy hand in the passing game and is the stronger running back between Edwards-Helaire and himself. His downhill running style makes him the prime candidate when in touchdown territory. More than that, he’s also got a great burst upfield and has become quite the third-down running back.
Next, let’s talk about former third-string running back Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon was a free agent signing by the Chiefs that was a little strange at the time. It made almost no sense why they would bring him in. Regardless, they did. So at least for now, he remains a Chief.
McKinnon was their third-string running back before he injured himself against the Dallas Cowboys. In that game, he was questionable to return and later was ruled out. Since that point, we have yet to hear anything further about the injury, but he’s not a crucial part of the Chiefs’ success.
Before McKinnon got hurt he was actually not on the field very much which makes it difficult to really get a feel on how he was used. So in replace of that, I’ll talk about his style of play. McKinnon wasn’t an overly big running back which made him a less than likely candidate to go up the middle on designed run plays. Similarly, he wasn’t fast enough to get outside when facing teams with a fast pass rush. His only trait that was really reliable was his hands which has become Williams’ role. Therefore, his role with the team is obsolete.
Gore is one of the more interesting players on this team. With his snap count skewed based on players’ injuries, it’s hard to gauge if they alter the game to him or if he simply fills the void of the player who he’s replacing. Nonetheless, he does both pretty well.
Gore’s role with the team, based upon statistics and the games I’ve seen, is an early-down running back with upside in the later downs. What he does well, he does really, really well. He is a very aggressive runner which leads to a lot of big runs when he hits the hole, but he doesn’t have the speed to really get on the outside and turn upfield, which limits his usefulness..
Regardless, he has proven to be a reliable option for the Chiefs when running the football and he’s also shown signs to be a very good receiving back, but that’s based upon his limited opportunities. However, with more experience and time with the starters, he could allow the Chiefs to use a running back committee and keep teams on their toes.