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Evaluating where the Chiefs stand at running back ahead of Patriots matchup

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This has to be the game the Chiefs have been saving Shady for, right?

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs signed running back Spencer Ware earlier this week, sending Darrel Williams to injured reserve with a hamstring issue.

“What you miss with Darrel is that Swiss Army Knife,” said running backs coach Deland McCullough on Thursday. “That guy you can kind of do everything from protections to running the ball, blocking, pass protecting. Just being that guy you can count on and feel like he can perform at everything you’ll need in a game.”

Preseason starter Damien Williams missed last game against the Raiders and has been all but ruled out for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.

That means the Chiefs will have three running backs on the roster to face the Patriots — LeSean McCoy, rookie Darwin Thompson and the returning Ware.

Thompson set a career-high for snaps with more than 20 against the Raiders last week.

“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to just play him,” added McCullough. “I sat with the staff, and I made that comment— ‘We got to just put this guy out there.’ It’s hard to pick and choose. You didn’t know the game was going to become the way it did, so I just put him in early. Coach [said] ‘Hey, what are we doing?’ I said, ‘We getting this guy out there, man. Let’s get him going.’ And he performed at the level that we expected and we know it’s only going to move up from here.”

Thompson went on to lead the Chiefs in carries and yards, accumulating all while the game well in hand. So, despite that success, it is worth wondering whether the Chiefs would give him more meaningful snaps against New England.

“I like to think that I am one of the official presidents of the short running back club,” said 5-foot-7 offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy of the 5-foot-8 Thompson. “With Darwin being in that short running back club, obviously I have high expectations of him. But the kid — he has a dynamic personality, and he has a great work ethic... he will be given an opportunity at some point, but right now, he’s learning behind a number of great players, he’s spending time in that room with coach McCullough — they’re doing a hell of a job. And the only thing he wants to know is how can he improve on the next particular play.”

McCoy was once again on the field for less than 40% of the snaps against the Raiders. He had five carries for 10 yards.

“He did a nice job and had productive runs today,” said Andy Reid after the game. “Look, we’re not fooling anybody here and he’s not getting any younger. It’s my responsibility to manage him the best I can and I think I know him as well as anybody. I’m going to do what I think is right on that and if it’s wrong then it’s my fault and I’ll take that on my shoulders. I know he wants to play every play. He loves to play, but I also have to trust what I do on that part.”

The Chiefs play the Patriots, followed by the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Chargers. With the AFC West all but settled, it’s hardly arguable that this is the most important game left on the schedule.

All signs thus point to the Chiefs turning McCoy loose on Sunday, with Thompson as a backup. Ware, who knows the playbook but is still getting back in football shape, will be an emergency back, and fullback Anthony Sherman should be ready if the Chiefs need him.