Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s return forces Chiefs to make tough backfield decisions

After weeks of wondering whether or not the Kansas City Chiefs would see running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire back on the field or not, it looks like the Divisional Round will finally be where he returns from a shoulder injury back in Week 16. Now the question is just how much the team will have him play.

Edwards-Helaire first went down with what looked like a collarbone injury during the team’s first win of the season over the Pittsburgh Steelers. From there, the Chiefs stated that initial tests looked good and that the injury was not long-term. It was termed a shoulder contusion and Edwards-Helaire even tried to practice week after week. Yet he also went on to miss three straight games—enough to have been placed on injured reserve.

In the wake of Edwards-Helaire’s absence, the Chiefs have found their other running backs making very compelling cases for more reps of their own. Darrel Williams has held up well all season long next to and in place of Edwards-Helaire. Yet even as Williams has dealt with a toe injury of his own along this same timeline, both Jerick McKinnon and Derrick Gore have looked good or even great coming out of the backfield.

Chiefs face tough decision with backfield playing time.

Now the word is out that Edwards-Helaire has practiced in full all week and NFL reporter James Palmer states that he won’t be on a snap count from the looks of it.

This is all interesting because it forces the Chiefs to make a difficult decision. Williams is still questionable, so there’s every reason to rest him or give him minimal playing time. But how much will Edwards-Helaire play coming back? And what does this mean for McKinnon?

IF this feels like a silly question to ask given that Edwards-Helaire was talented enough to be the Chiefs’ first-round pick only a year ago, it means you also missed McKinnon’s breakout performance with the Chiefs last week in the postseason. He had 162 yards from scrimmage all season long in 13 total games, but he had 142 against the Steelers alone and showed good speed, great hands, and surprising toughness.

All of this creates an interesting conundrum for the Chiefs—and maybe this is not a bad problem to have—but it certainly means someone will get left out in the process knowing that each has earned more reps than they are likely getting. It’s also unfair to Edwards-Helaire from a fan perspective given that some in Chiefs Kingdom would call for him to sit behind others even though being injured is hardly his fault.

For now, expect the Chiefs to give Edwards-Helaire a chance to get going and ride the hot hand wherever that goes from here on out. In the offseason, the Chiefs will have decisions to make about the future of each player since Williams and McKinnon are both free agents. For now, there are bigger things to focus on.