On the Wednesday mailbag edition of the AP Laboratory, we were asked if Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s role will change more by the end of the season.
The rookie running back has been good in the run game this season. Behind an offensive line that is struggling, he’s been able to get what’s there plus any yards after contact — a major trait of his, as he rarely goes down on first touch. Any improvement on the interior offensive line could see an uptick in Edwards-Helaire’s per-carry efficiency.
The passing game has left something to be desired to this point in the season. Edwards-Helaire’s ability in the pass game has been written about by myself and others since March. I thought he was the best pass-catching running back since Christian McCaffrey came out of Stanford. His value in this space is what justified taking a running back in the first round for me — I expected his ability as a receiver to shine and create additional problems underneath the vertical stretch ability of Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman.
So far in 2020, Edwards-Helaire hasn’t been used all that much on routes out of the backfield. Many of his targets have come on swing routes out of the backfield after protection responsibilities. Speak of pass protection, part of the issue could be he hasn’t grown enough in this area to earn the trust of the coaching staff. The team has leaned on Darrel Williams heavily on third downs. A path to Edwards-Helaire seeing more opportunities could be to show more ability in pass protection.
The Chiefs very well could be holding some things back in the running back pass game. Both Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell are assets in space against linebackers. The full potential could be revealed during the home stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs — adding another dynamic for teams to worry about without much tape on what they can do before it’s too late to adjust. Hopefully, that is the case.
It’s been a tough ask for Edwards-Helaire to be thrown into the primary back role without an offseason. He’s done a more than admirable job. As time goes on, there is hope we see an uptick in his utilization.
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