Native Kansans and Missourians know the power of a mid-August heat. In the Midwest, the end of summer can produce some of the hottest, sweatiest days of the year — and if they aren’t careful, newcomers can get caught up.
That’s what happened to Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire on Sunday, who spent most of Sunday’s practice on the sideline after becoming dehydrated. The native Louisianan could only shrug his shoulders and laugh.
“It’s hot everywhere right now.” Edwards-Helaire told reporters after practice. “That’s just what it is, and we’re outside working.”
Like the weather, Edwards-Helaire’s name has been hot this August — mostly because of the opportunity he has to be a significant, immediate contributor during his first season. With all the talk about his ball-carrying skills, head coach Andy Reid made sure to emphasize another important aspect of his play.
“He’s a real smart kid, so he’s picking it up,” Reid told reporters of his pass protection ability. “He’s strong — he’s short but he’s strong. He gets himself in good position with his quickness and his leverage and does a good job with protection; he has a pretty good base with what’s going on with it.”
The ability to seal off a blitzing defender — or buy starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes a few more seconds in the pocket — is essential to being a Chiefs running back. Players will earn playing time with protection skills — but once the ball is in their hands, they still need to be weapons.
Mahomes in particular made an observation about Edwards-Helaire’s rushing style that helps his case to be an every-down player.
“He’s stepped in, learned the offense, not making a lot of mistakes, playing fast, and he has incredible vision,” Mahomes pointed out. “That’s been the biggest thing so far, the way he’s able to run the ball, find the lanes to run it in and catch it out of the backfield — [to] get upfield and make plays happen. For him to be able to do that so early is a great sign.”
Compliments about his vision aren’t new to Edwards-Helaire. In fact, he’s embraced it for most of his football career.
“I was told at an early age — might have been six or seven — the one thing you can’t teach is eyes... what I see when I’m running the ball or the things I see running the route, that’s my mind doing its own thing and making its adjustments just off of leverage and understanding the concept of the play calls.”
Edwards-Helaire will get a bigger chance to show off this skill after starting running back Damien Williams chose to opt out of the season.
“As soon as I heard the news, I wanted to get his phone number from (running backs coach) Deland [McCullough] and send him a text,” Edwards-Healire recalled of his reaction to the news. “Because obviously, if a guy chooses that route, it’s more than what meets the eye.
“I’ve always been a guy that has to be 100% tuned in from the beginning. I didn’t have to flip a switch, and say now’s the time. Since the day I was drafted, I felt like I’ll get this playbook, get rolling and do my job. So it was never a shell-shocking moment for me.”
Like many other post-college adults, Edwards-Helaire used the connections with his alma mater to get mentorship for his professional career. Fellow running back Darrel Williams shared a locker room with Edwards-Helaire at LSU — and their relationship has continued to grow in Kansas City.
“The guy that I’ve always looked up to is Darrel,” he explained. “He was in my room at LSU, and he’s also in the room with me now — and he’s been in this offense. As far as someone I turn to initially, it’s Darrel.”
As the Chiefs continue to transition into padded practices, things may be getting even easier for this year’s first-round selection.
“These last two days putting on the pads, for me, it felt like everything slowed down,” Edwards-Helaire admitted. “Just because the nature of football, everything slows down from pads just because of contact.”
Playing a position that need a a big-time starter, Edwards-Helaire continues to progress — and appears more than capable. If acquiring him really did give the Chiefs an upgrade at the position, there’s no telling how dynamic the offense could be.