For the first couple of years of his career, Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire seemed to hardly live up to his first-round draft status or anywhere near. While he may never be able to fully justify such a high-level investment, Chiefs fans want to see consistent production.
Whether it was due to injuries, bad circumstances, or just simply poor play, Edwards-Helaire wasn’t getting it done his first few seasons as the Chiefs lead back. Fans rose their eyebrows as other running backs taken in the same draft class like Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift seemed to surpass CEH. Even fellow Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon stepped in and outperformed him last postseason.
Edwards-Helaire lacked explosion, vision, and wasn’t really a needle-mover in the Chiefs offense up to this point despite the coaching staff giving him is obligatory carries every week—a continued effort to try and fit a square peg in a round hole. He would have a good game here and there, but would tend to follow it up with a frustrating performance or an injury would arise.
CEH is silencing even his biggest critics early in 2022
This was a make-or-break year for Edwards-Helaire. It was year two behind a very talented offensive line that the team had just rebuilt. A lot of people including myself were very low on CEH, and the Chiefs added a bit of competition to the running back room this offseason when they signed Ronald Jones and drafted Isiah Pacheco in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft. They also brought back McKinnon for another season.
Chiefs Kingdom just wanted to see progress, some sort of improvement. We all wanted to see Edwards-Helaire not be a sunk cost like he was several times before. Now a quarter of the way through the 2022 season, the third-year back has silenced a lot of his critics.
Though the Indianapolis Colts game was disappointing, as it was for the entire team, Edwards-Helaire is coming off a big bounce-back effort against Tampa Bay in which he ran for 92 yards on 19 carries along with 1 touchdown. He was also able to add a receiving TD and was pretty reliable for most of the night outside of a drop on 4th down which ended up being his only drop of the season after four weeks.
So far this season Edwards-Helaire has 208 yards rushing on 41 attempts which is good for 5.1 yards per carry. Additionally, CEH has become more of a factor in the passing game this year, an asset of his that was praised coming out of college but we hadn’t seen in his NFL career. Through two seasons, Edwards-Helaire’s career high receiving yards was 297 yards. Through four games in 2022, CEH already has 115 yards receiving and he has been more of a weapon in the red zone adding 3 receiving TDs so far.
Maybe injuries have been the problem and the gallbladder surgery that Edwards-Helaire had last offseason had more of an effect than we thought. For once in his career he actually looks spry. He looks like a different player. We even saw him break off a career-long 52-yard run in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers where he outran the secondary, which he hadn’t done before.
The most impressive part about Edwards-Helaire’s resurgence this season, however, might be the fact that he’s been able to replicate his good performances against genuinely good defenses. Most of Edwards-Helaire’s big games had been against some poor rush defenses but what he did against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night was impressive. The Buccaneers defense features a ferocious defensive line with Vita Vea and Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David paired with Devin White is one of the best linebacker tandems in the NFL. The Tampa Bay defense is one of the most vaunted defenses in the league and CEH still managed a much needed performance.
It also seems as if a lot of Edwards-Helaire’s runs that used to go for just two or three yards on early downs are starting to go for five or six yards. Those outside runs and halfback stretches that Edwards-Helaire used to struggle with are finally being turned up-field for substantial gains. Many would still hesitate to call Edwards-Helaire a world-beater, but for now he deserves his credit. He’s answered the call.
Of course, credit has to be given to the Chiefs offensive line which we know can move people in the run game, but Edwards-Helaire wasn’t taking advantage of that last year. This year he is. Can he keep it up? That remains to be seen but this type of play from Edwards-Helaire is all fans have been asking for and if he can consistently be a factor unlike many times in the past, then he can earn the respect of Chiefs fans.