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Veteran running backs have been visiting the Chiefs. Why?

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Two running backs—Thomas Rawls and Damien Williams—have visited the Kansas City Chiefs over the past week. Here are some links:

Neither signed with the Chiefs, but it led me to ask, what do the Chiefs want with these veteran running backs?

Here is how the Chiefs’ roster stands at the running back position of this writing:

  1. Kareem Hunt
  2. Spencer Ware
  3. Charcandrick West
  4. Akeem Hunt
  5. George Atkinson

You should probably be familiar with all those names except Atkinson.

Atkinson, 25, first entered the league as a 2014 undrafted free agent with the Raiders, bounced around their practice squad, went to the Browns, back to the Raiders and finally signed with the Chiefs on their practice squad in September of last year.

My theory on why the Chiefs are exploring veterans is to provide training camp competition and leadership to an otherwise very young room. Ware, though he has been in the league since 2013, is the oldest member of the running back room at 26.

The veteran-to-be would fill in the CJ Spiller role at training camp that we saw last year. The Chiefs initially signed Spiller, 30, in late February of 2017, and he looked good up in St. Joseph, giving West some competition for that No. 3 role. The Chiefs ultimately wound up sticking with West, but we’d see Spiller return a couple of times before season’s end due to injuries and other items.

The way the room is shaping out right now, Kareem Hunt, will obviously be your No. 1 back. Spencer Ware should be back healthy for 2018, and Andy Reid said in late February it should create a “nice problem to have.”

“They are best friends,” Reid said of Hunt and Ware, “as Kareem has told you before and so that would be a nice tandem to have back there for sure.”

What the Chiefs opt to do after Ware is the question. Candidates for the No. 3 spot are Charcandrick West, who has been with the Chiefs since 2014, Akeem Hunt, who the Chiefs called upon in the return game last season before he was placed on injured reserve (ankle) in early January.

My prediction here is that the Chiefs go with West once again at the No. 3 position unless they draft someone because of his ability in pass protection. The Chiefs used West rather than Hunt in those situations last season.

Eric Bieniemy, who was the Chiefs running backs coach last year and now holds the position offensive coordinator, had this to say about West in early November.

“He’s a fighter,” Bieniemy said of West. “He does a great job in picking up blitzes. He does a great job of handling the pass routes out in the flats. He does a great job of just being an all-around football player for us. At the end of the day he does a great job of fighting. Then when it’s all said and done, you just trust the little things that he’s going to do to help us and drag us up across the finish line when needed.”

My way-too-early prediction is the Chiefs keep four running backs—Kareem Hunt, Ware, West, Akeem Hunt—in that order, along with fullback Anthony Sherman.

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