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.
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.
Reviewing Clyde's carries and its impossible not to get distracted by this offensive line. The displacement by the interior here(!!!) pic.twitter.com/HqQFZVFWvE— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) September 30, 2021
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.
Sure the blocking made the picture clearer than what he may have gotten used to, but there's no question that CEH ran with an extra chip on his shoulder this week. More decisive - could be a sign of increased trust/rhythm with an all new OL. pic.twitter.com/vasQ3lHyzz— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) September 30, 2021
Although his size could be considered a weakness in his game, there are also ways in which it becomes an advantage for Edwards-Helaire.
Despite sacrificing some power due to a lack of size, you'll see CEH occasionally get lost behind a scrum of big bodies in a good way. Defenders are on their heels and indecisive when not seeing him, 25 sees openings and shows really good burst to get through initial level(s). pic.twitter.com/aatcmktaBY— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) September 30, 2021
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.
We saw Edwards-Helaire do some great work particularly by creating extra yardage with his lateral quickness and agility. This is where he wins in space (and why more receptions would make sense). Also like to see him falling forward for extra yardage with consistency. pic.twitter.com/vQfAjLv5FB— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) September 30, 2021
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.
Unfortunately on one of his best runs of the day, Clyde did fumble. Makes first man miss, bursts thru first level and the ball security actually appears solid. Have to tip the cap to 20 for LAC who really just struck CEH's arm perfectly in a way we don't often see. pic.twitter.com/tEhUFHkFYC— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) September 30, 2021
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.