Clyde Edwards-Helaire is key ingredient for Chiefs offensive success

Sep 11, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, United States; Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) shrugs as he walks into the end zone untouched for a score against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.Nfl Cardinals Nfl Game Kansas City Chiefs At Arizona Cardinals
Sep 11, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, United States; Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) shrugs as he walks into the end zone untouched for a score against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.Nfl Cardinals Nfl Game Kansas City Chiefs At Arizona Cardinals /

The pressure of being a first-round draft pick in the NFL has been the kryptonite for dozens, if not hundreds, of players over the course of history. Names like JaMarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, Trent Richardson, and Johnny Manziel have become synonymous with a term that is, at times, handed out unfairly by the media and fanbases across the league – bust. In fact, if you’ve paid close enough attention to social media as a Kansas City Chiefs fan over the course of the past two-plus seasons, you’d likely be under the impression that we have our very own first-round bust on the roster right now. 

Following their victory in Super Bowl 54, the Chiefs selected LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the last pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Why would they go get a running back when Damien Williams was just over 90 days removed from Super Bowl heroics that will undoubtedly secure him a place in Chiefs’ lore for all of eternity? Patrick Mahomes.

As legend has it, GM Brett Veach sent a text message to the Super Bowl MVP quarterback inquiring about who he thought they should take with the 32nd pick as the draft began that April evening. While we all sheltered-in-place and prepared to watch the first (and hopefully only) virtual NFL Draft, Veach’s phone lit up with a one-word response from his franchise QB: “Clyde”.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has begun the 2022 season as a key ingredient to the team’s early offensive success, but you wouldn’t know that from polling Chiefs Kingdom.

With the fanbase still shaking off the champagne buzz from the Super Bowl celebration 50 years in the making, the reviews were mixed. In one camp, you had the hopeful “Clyde is going to be an electric weapon in this offense” crowd. In the other, the “Why would we spend a first round pick on a running back?” folks. In a way, both groupings of individuals were correct in their initial takes; it’s just that one group has doubled (and tripled, and quadrupled) down more vocally on their stance. And it hasn’t been the more positive bunch.

For a guy that debuted with a 138-yard performance in 2020 and racked up 1,100 all-purpose yards and 5 touchdowns as a rookie on an absolutely stacked offense in just 13 games, Edwards-Helaire’s name has not been the most popular in the Kingdom since he joined the Chiefs. Perhaps it could be the fact that he missed 7 games in 2021 with ankle and collarbone injuries? The injury bug did bite CEH last season, which is unfortunate, but unavoidable at the running back position if you play long enough.

Maybe people are still hating on Edwards-Helaire because of his issues fumbling the ball. He does have a fumbling issue, right? He single-handedly lost the Chiefs their game at Baltimore in 2021 with a fumble late and then turned around the very next game and fumbled against the Chargers. Butterfingers, am I right?!

Well, statistically speaking, Edwards-Helaire is actually one of the best in the NFL at holding onto the football. In 2020, among the top 20 running backs in the league in rushing attempts, Clyde was the only ball carrier with a 0% fumble rate. He carried the ball 181 times that season and had 36 receptions to add to that. In fact, the 2 fumbles I mentioned just now in back-to-back weeks last year are the only 2 fumbles of his entire career. For his career, there’s a 0.7% chance Clyde will fumble the ball when handed to him.

Would you like a list of running backs who fumble more in the past 2 seasons than Clyde? Here you go:

  • Jonathan Taylor (5)
  • Derrick Henry (4)
  • D’Andre Swift (5)
  • Austin Ekeler (5)
  • Dalvin Cook (8)

I’m not listing these names to say, “See, Edwards-Helaire is better than these guys!” I’m listing these names to prove that the reasons that a good chunk of the fanbase has elected to hate on Edwards-Helaire are pains that every franchise that has a running back, even a franchise running back, experiences. Do these guys put up bigger numbers than Clyde? Sure, absolutely, and that may help cover up some of the holes in their respective games. But do any of these guys have Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs passing attack to fight for touches in? The answer is no.

Edwards-Helaire has been nothing short of spectacular out of the gate this season. Against Arizona, Clyde had 74 all-purpose yards on 10 touches (easy math, 7.4 yards per touch) and scored twice. But it’s not the numbers that really make him an x-factor for the Chiefs offense; it’s how easy he makes things for Mahomes. Take a look at his second score of the game against the Cardinals. The defense is so drawn to Travis Kelce and the stable of receivers that the Chiefs sport this season that they don’t even realize Edwards-Helaire is there on 4th-and-2.

Against the Chargers in Week 2, it could be argued that Edwards-Helaire was the Chiefs’ most important, if not best, offensive player. Clyde paced the Chiefs’ rushing attack with 8 carriers for 74 yards (9.3 YPC) and also added 4 receptions for 44 yards, including this absolute beauty where he buried Derwin James into the turf at Arrowhead Stadium.

Edwards-Helaire’s 52-yard run (through a facemask, I might add) in the fourth quarter all but sealed the deal for the Chiefs, running enough time off of the clock that it made it damn near impossible for Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense to do anything about the lead that the Chiefs had built.

Edwards-Helaire is not going to be a numbers god in this Chiefs offense simply because of the personnel around him in the passing game and that Andy Reid and Eric Bienemy like to call games. Can you blame them? With a quarterback like Mahomes, you want to put the game in his hands. But can you blame Clyde for not rushing for 1,500 yards and scoring 10 times per year on the ground? Hopefully, at this point, the answer to that question is getting more and more clear to you.

Edwards-Helaire is currently third in the NFL in yards per carry at 7.7 YPC, but ranks 42nd in attempts. With an offensive line like the Chiefs have built, is it not to their advantage to not just hand Clyde the ball more, but to spread the wealth to their stable of running backs? The Chiefs’ offensive line has graded out as by far the best run blocking unit in football through 2 weeks this year.

And even when Edwards-Helaire doesn’t have gaping holes he is still making things happen. Take a look at the names towards the top of the pile in yards after contact. Some you’d expect – Aaron Jones, D’Andre Swift, Saquon Barkley, and….Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Consider this: maybe running back by committee isn’t the coaching staff showing their hand that they don’t have faith in Edwards-Helaire. Maybe, just maybe, it’s a preservation measure to make sure they have him healthy down the stretch because they know how heavily he can impact games when healthy.

The bottom line is this: the Chiefs have rushed for over 100 yards as a team 45 times since Patrick Mahomes has taken over as the starting QB. In those games, the team is 40-5. This year KC is primed to find offensive balance in the running game to compliment the multiple ways they can kill opponents through the air. Like it or not, that starts with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who appears to be more than up to the challenge so far.

Next. Ranking every trade Veach has ever made. dark