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Film review: The good and bad of Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. the Chargers

The second-year running back rushed for 100 yards at 5.9 yards per carry last Sunday.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For the past couple of weeks, Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been the victim of some criticism due to ball security issues. There’s no quicker way to get on the wrong side of a fan base than putting the ball on the ground at that position.

However, it shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle that Edwards-Helaire actually had one of his better games since joining the Chiefs when it simply came to running the football against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3.

In this review, we will detail what he did well, where some deficiencies remain, and what it means for the future.

The good

Before we talk about Edwards-Helaire’s specific set of abilities, let’s preface everything by acknowledging the power and tenacity this new Chiefs offensive line possesses. The big guys up front are moving defenders off of the line of scrimmage in ways Chiefs fans haven’t seen in quite some time.

Edwards-Helaire appeared to run harder this week — as if he had much to prove. One of the benefits to the offensive line and a running back gaining more and more game repetitions together is that Edwards-Helaire will continue to gain a better feel for how to work off their blocks.

The operation looked more in-sync post-snap, and because of the great job the offensive line did in blocking, it positioned Edwards-Helaire to be much more decisive with his maneuvers.

Although his size could be considered a weakness in his game, there are also ways in which it becomes an advantage for Edwards-Helaire.

The Chiefs have a very large set of offensive linemen, and when they are making life as difficult on the opposition as they did against the Chargers, it’s a tough ask for defenders to simultaneously find the shifty 5-foot-7 running back behind a wall of bodies. This is particularly the case when the Chiefs elect for zone-style runs, in which Edwards-Helaire has more freedom to choose the gap he will run through based on how the blocks are set up.

Where Edwards-Helaire’s abilities continue to shine brightest right now is his quickness to make first defenders miss in the hole or in space. This is important because, as a running back who will not often make plays with power, he has to find other ways to create hidden yardage.

We see him do just that on a few different occasions against Los Angeles in the clip below.

The bad

On the occasion that the Chiefs’ offensive line couldn’t create a surge and the defensive front could form a decent wall, providing a less clear picture for Edwards-Helaire, he could not push through for good yardage. This is just part of being a smaller back in the National Football League.

Also, despite actually doing a lot of really good things on the play in which he fumbled, it was still a turnover that proved costly in the end — as all four turnovers were.

The other thing we have to acknowledge is that Edwards-Helaire is not going to accelerate through the secondary levels of a defense in a way that destroys the pursuit angles of defenders. That isn’t new information, but it’s a pattern to consider if one has expectations for long runs from him in the future.

The bottom line

As we project forward, if Edwards-Helaire and the offense as a whole can clean up the turnover problems, the potential of this Chiefs offense is as great as any we have seen to date. The offensive line is a big reason for that, and Edwards-Helaire himself played his best game in a long time against the Chargers as well.

We can continue to hope for an increased role in the passing game as the season goes on — something I do think we’ll continue to see after his touchdown reception last week. This game showed a clear path to Edwards-Helaire providing a steady, consistent presence that keeps the Chiefs’ offense well ahead of the chains running the football. I don’t know if we will see a ton of 20-plus-yard carries, but I do think we could see more 10-to-15-yard runs than this team has had in several years, allowing the offense to operate at an extremely high efficiency.