The 2021 Kansas City Chiefs backfield has been a difficult situation to gauge this season. You never know who the lead back is from to week to week and the position has seen guys go down here and there.
Despite Clyde Edwards-Helaire being thrusted into the starting role, he hasn’t really put up RB1 numbers (injuries are a factor) meanwhile UDFA Darrel Williams is up to 1,000 yards from scrimmage this year.
Then there’s Derrick Gore who has been a fan favorite for many and showed some really nice burst in limited snaps. Although I have been riding the Gore Hype train, I doubt he gets a huge bulk of carries at any point for the rest of this season. The Chiefs just don’t seem intent on giving him that kind of load.
Jerick McKinnon could be late season factor for KC Chiefs
Lastly, there’s Jerick McKinnon who I admittedly have forgotten about at different points this season. He seems to have been the odd man out most of the time, which is strange considering the wide runs and bouncing outside that the Chiefs make their slow backs do despite McKinnon’s explosiveness.
McKinnon’s puzzling usage never made sense to me, and when they originally signed him I said to anyone that would listen he is the perfect third down, red zone back who can provide some juice to that position group. For whatever reason, he hasn’t quite earned that trust or been given that sort of role. Following a stint on IR late this season, I had figured that his time on the field with Kansas City was all but done.
McKinnon ended up being activated off of injured reserve before the Broncos game in Week 18 and surprisingly had a featured role where he had 5 rushes for 24 yards and 3 catches for 26 yards and a TD. He put on a really nice move to make a Broncos defender miss and showed off his physicality on the way to the end zone.
It was more McKinnon than we had really seen all year. He’s only had 12 carries over the course of this season for 62 yards and half of that came in one game.
That leaves me wondering, does McKinnon get a bigger role in the offense as the Chiefs head into the postseason? It would definitely be the smart thing to do given he can do a lot of things the other Chiefs running backs simply can’t do athletically and he has the speed to break off a long one which could be the difference in January.
It would also be an interesting approach to expand McKinnon’s role in the postseason when they’ve barely used him all year. Defenses may overlook him and the Chiefs could hide him in their formations only to throw him the ball on a wheel route or get him the ball in space.
McKinnon almost strike me as someone who can be a Damien Williams type of player that ho-hums through the regular season and then turns into prime Barry Sanders in the playoffs. That may be a bit of wishful thinking but McKinnon does have a similar profile to Williams which is also why his usage is a bit puzzling to me and why the Chiefs wouldn’t get him more involved.
Regardless, better late than never to think about getting McKinnon the ball more as the Chiefs head into the playoffs because he could be the boost they need at running back that adds a new dynamic to the Chiefs offense.