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DeAndre Washington’s (likely) No. 2 running back role came back to him this offseason

The free agent signee watched as his new team drafted a running back. Then the starter-to-be opted out of his contract.

When the Kansas City Chiefs came to terms with free agent running back DeAndre Washington back in mid-April, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was not a member of the club.

Washington, 27, had just signed up to be Damien Williams’ primary backup — a seemingly excellent opportunity to garner playing time after having to sit behind Latavius Murray, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin and rookie phenom Josh Jacobs in successive years as an Oakland Raider.

Despite nearly winning the Super Bowl MVP, Williams had never started more than six regular-season games in a single year dating back to 2014. Of course, that all changed when the Chiefs selected Edwards-Helaire with the No. 32 overall pick.

“I felt like Kansas City was a great opportunity for me, even before they drafted the back, Clyde,” Washington explained to the Kansas City media via Zoom on Tuesday. “I think he’s a great back, but you know how this game goes, guys are going to roll, it’s a long season, so I feel like there’s a lot for everybody to eat.”

And even with the pick, the Chiefs are high on Washington. At the time of his signing, general manager Brett Veach described how sometimes, players fall back to you.

“DeAndré Washington was a guy we liked coming out,” confirmed Veach, speaking about Washington as a draft prospect in 2016. “He’s a guy that can run, can catch, smart, great worker.”

Veach added that the Chiefs went through a number of injuries — to Darrel Williams, LeSean McCoy and Spencer Ware — in 2019, so running back depth was necessary. That mentality paid off for the Chiefs when Damien alerted the team that he would opt out of the 2020 season last week.

Much like Washington fell back to the Chiefs, so did the No. 2 job back to Washington — so long as he can outshine Darwin Thompson and Darrel in the eyes of the Chiefs’ coaching staff.

“I think coach (Andy) Reid and this offense — he’s shown plenty of times he knows how to get his playmakers the ball. I’m looking forward to making my plays when I get the opportunity.”

With the Raiders in 2019, part of Washington’s role was helping to groom Jacobs for the NFL. He did his part, as Jacobs finished the season with more than 1,100 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.

Washington already sees similarities between Jacobs and Edwards-Helaire.

“I feel like they’re both great backs, great strengths to their game,” he said. “My experience with Josh last year and like the same thing I told Clyde: it’s a long season — just take care of your body, Guys are going roll, guys are going to get reps and he doesn’t have to feel like he takes every rep or be the guy right now. I understand you’re coming in as rookie, you’re hungry.

Washington took a team-friendly approach to a tough set of circumstances last season and has carried that energy to this year.

“I want [Edwards-Helaire] to shine and Josh would get hot in the game, I would tell Josh to stay in the game — no reason to come out. I know we’re in a rotation but you’re hot, stay in the game and keeping going and I’ll keep that same energy with Clyde.

“Any game I give him, just from my experience, I’m definitely going to shoot it out to him and I’m looking forward see him shine.”

As is well known by now, Washington was a college teammate of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech. The two remained in touch after Washington was drafted to Oakland in 2016, and he called Mahomes to find out about the Chiefs before joining the club this offseason.

Washington’s last elite statistical season came at Texas Tech in 2015 — with Mahomes as his quarterback. He accumulated nearly 1,900 scrimmage yards, including 385 as a Mahomes receiver.

He noted that he and Mahomes found such success by feeding off each other’s energy.

“When you have a quarterback like that, guys can really key in on the run game, so that opened up opportunity for me and having a successful run game opened up opportunities for our fast game being over the top on guys, so I think it was just feeding off each other’s energy....

“We kind of got hot early and then the momentum kind of just rolled through the season offensively. I kind of wish we could’ve won a couple more games, of course, but offensively we were hot though for sure.”

If the first two years of Mahomes as a starter in Kansas City serve as any indication, they may be able to make up for it in 2020.

Poll

Who backs up Clyde Edwards-Helaire?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    DeAndre Washington
    (1243 votes)
  • 7%
    Darwin Thompson
    (137 votes)
  • 19%
    Darrel Williams
    (337 votes)
  • 0%
    Elijah McGuire
    (12 votes)
  • 1%
    Somebody else
    (28 votes)
1757 votes total Vote Now