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Keep an Eye on Darwin Thompson's Playing Time

Former Utah State standout Darwin Thompson didn't make a huge impact at running back last year with the Kansas City Chiefs. He has his work cut out for him again in year two.

Somehow, the Kansas City Chiefs took the league's most explosive offense and managed to turn things up a notch. A major reason why is the addition of rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. While the hype surrounding him is more than warranted and he's going to be a star, it reminds me of a time when there was another rookie running back showing flashes.

After rushing for 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns with the Utah State Aggies in 2018, Darwin Thompson was selected in the sixth round by the Chiefs in last year's draft. At the time, the 5'8" Thompson was an interesting pick who everyone wanted to see on an NFL field before drawing any conclusions. To say he left a lasting impression in the preseason would be an understatement:

Despite having some electrifying performances in the preseason, it wasn't enough for Thompson to leapfrog Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy on the depth chart to start 2019. In 12 games, he carried the ball 37 times for 128 yards and a touchdown. He also caught nine passes for 43 yards, totaling 171 yards from scrimmage. 153 of those yards came between Weeks 13-17. 

Williams opted out of the 2020 season and in his place, Edwards-Helaire is the clear-cut No. 1 back. Behind him sits Darrel Williams, who's flashed potential in the past and is a strong runner who packs a punch. Arrowhead Report's Sam Hays made a compelling case for Thompson to make this year's 53-man roster, and his prediction was right. The team is carrying three running backs, but it's still hard to see a clear path to significant playing time for Thompson.

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In the Chiefs' opening night win over the Houston Texans, Thompson didn't receive a single offensive snap. He saw the field eight times on special teams, but nowhere else. Last Sunday in Los Angeles, Thompson received 15 offensive snaps and 10 special teams snaps. In that game, however, Williams left with an injury after taking the field with the offense just 10 times. When on the field, Thompson carried the ball four times for 21 yards. He was also targeted once, but didn't register a catch.

With Edwards-Helaire being such a dynamic threat and Williams being the obvious choice to relieve him when necessary, things looked bleak for Thompson in Week 1. In Williams' limited absence against the Chargers, Thompson got a brief opportunity, but it will continue to be an uphill battle for playing time for the second-year back.

Everyone should be rooting for Thompson. He's a scrappy halfback who's undersized and had just one season of elite production in the Mountain West Conference after playing at the JUCO level for two years. The odds have been stacked against him from the start. Unfortunately, barring any injuries, it seems like that will continue to be the case in his second year with the Chiefs.