Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had been doing everything asked of him.
Through five weeks of the NFL season in mid-October, the No. 32 overall pick was just out of the top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards (344).
But that’s when three-time All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell suddenly became available, and if we have learned anything from the signing of Sammy Watkins, LeSean McCoy and Terrell Suggs, the Chiefs and general manager Brett Veach don’t sit back and wait when they see an opportunity to better their team.
The Chiefs brought Bell aboard, and now he is splitting time with Edwards-Helaire in the backfield. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy called the new duo, “thunder and lightning,” and Edwards-Helaire is trying to make the most of having Bell around to better himself.
“Le’Veon came in and he just brought in a different pep,” Edwards-Helaire noted on Wednesday. “It’s always just extra competition in the room. Once you get that extra person in the room, it kind of up-tempos the competition... just the way we compete day in and day out. Off the field, we’re friends, but on the field, you’re still doing everything in your power to get on the field and compete.”
The natural boost Edwards-Helaire referenced was on full display when the Chiefs visited the Buffalo Bills in the first game after the signing. Will Bell still in the COVID protocol, the first-round rookie pounded the ball for 161 rushing yards in the Chiefs’ 26-17 win.
It was later revealed that Bell called Edwards-Helaire before he signed on with Kansas City.
“It’s a respect thing,” said Edwards-Helaire. “That’s kind of a man-to-man thing. Honestly, straightforward is just respect.”
Edwards-Helaire rushed eight times for 46 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos as Bell rushed six times for 39 yards. Against the Jets, the Chiefs passed a bit more, so with limited opportunity, Edwards-Helaire had 31 scrimmage yards to Bell’s 38. Edwards-Helaire saw 33 snaps to Bell’s 17.
Edwards-Helaire described the advantage and disadvantage to being a part of a running back-by-committee.
“The advantage is fresh legs and being able to always be fresh on the field when you’re in,” he said. “As far as being a running back, a disadvantage I’d probably just say is groove. That’s probably with every back. Finding a groove to get in. Getting in when a person’s number is called.
“We’re pros, so executing when your number is called and being able to work with the opportunities that you get.”
After eight weeks of his first NFL season, Edwards-Helaire sits third in the league in rushing yards (572) and fourth in the league in scrimmage yards (776). That typically might be the stat line for a player who wouldn’t need a running mate.
But to the rookie’s credit, he hasn’t bought into that idea — instead using the situation as a way to learn while tapping into it as his own personal source of ultimate motivation.