When Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was placed on the injured reserve list as a result of an MCL sprain in his knee, some were worried about how the team's offense would look in his absence. One game in a long 2021 season is a small sample size, but the early returns were positive.
Behind Edwards-Helaire on the Chiefs' depth chart this season have been Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon. Williams is the steady, 26-year-old veteran who is now in his fourth year with the team. McKinnon, on the other hand, is 29 and signed with the Chiefs this offseason before bursting onto the scene in the preseason. Both players made the 53-man roster to begin the 2021 campaign over Darwin Thompson and Derrick Gore.
Thompson is no longer with the Chiefs, and Gore was activated from the practice squad but didn't play any snaps in Week 6 against the Washington Football Team. Williams dominated the workload, and Conner Christopherson of Arrowhead Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to talk about how solid he looked in his first career regular-season start.
A quick look at the box score would lead one to think that Williams struggled against the Football Team. Despite rushing for a pair of touchdowns and hauling in a trio of catches as a receiver out of the backfield, the former LSU Tiger averaged an even 3.0 yards per carry on the day. Toting the ball 21 times and yielding just 62 yards is frowned-upon production in the modern NFL, but how Williams made things happen with his carries truly stood out.
One of the main knocks on Edwards-Helaire since being drafted in the first round last year has been his field vision. Far too many times, he's hit the incorrect gap and/or failed to see holes open up. That was arguably Williams' best trait against Washington, as he was deliberate and routinely hit the right cutback lanes to gain extra yards. Edwards-Helaire improved his decisiveness after some early-season fumbles, so there isn't a huge gap here, but Williams' ability to see the field and take what the defense (and his offensive line) gave him was a breath of fresh air.
Williams is a capable receiving threat and is also better in pass protection than Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs won't be missing a ton in either of those regards, and Williams is more than able to pick up the slack there. Oftentimes last season, coach Andy Reid would substitute him in for Edwards-Helaire on third downs and time-sensitive situations due to his reliability. That speaks volumes, and it showed up again on Sunday.
Edwards-Helaire may be more slippery than Williams and is almost surely a better athlete. The Chiefs also have far more invested in him. For those reasons, this isn't an argument for Williams to remain the team's starting running back once Edwards-Helaire is activated from the injured reserve. It is, rather, an argument for Williams being a solid running back that any team could benefit from having. Luckily for the Chiefs, they're the ones that have a quality backup on their roster to fill in during times like this.
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