Since the beginning of the 2018 season, there has been a carousel of running backs in the Kansas City Chiefs’ backfield. Whether it was signing a veteran like LeSean McCoy or drafting Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round, the organization has been trying anything and everything to get the right personnel at the position.
The one player that’s been there through it all is Darrel Williams. The undrafted signing was on the practice squad behind Kareem Hunt, Spencer Ware, and Damien Williams; now, he’s the Chiefs’ leader in all major rushing categories three years later.
According to his offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, the best of Williams was on display during his 88-yard, two-score performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.
“I thought Darrel played his best game as a professional this past weekend,” Bieniemy told reporters during his Wednesday press conference. “I was very proud of him... Now we’ve just got to continue to grow with him. I think the kid has shown that he belongs in this league and that he can be a productive player, so we’re counting on him moving forward. Obviously, we’ve got some other guys that are doing some good things, and we just want to make sure that group is as strong as we need it to be moving forward.”
After being told of the praise Bieniemy bestowed upon Williams, the running back explained to reporters what made the performance one of his best.
“The main thing was I went in there confident, and when I saw the hole, I was just hitting it,” Williams explained on Wednesday. “Leaving nothing behind, just trying to do whatever I can do to help this team win.”
Not only did Williams total a career-high 88 yards on the ground, but the 6.3 yards-per-carry rate was also the best of his career in a start. It was only the third time he’s scored multiple times in one game — and it has set him up to achieve an incredible milestone.
Williams is now only 37 total yards away from 1,000 for the season — which would be nearly 700 more yards than his previous career-high for one year. The long-time backup is establishing a legitimate NFL career, and he doesn’t take these accomplishments for granted.
“That would mean a lot,” Williams admitted as he discussed 1,000 yards. “I came a long way from being undrafted and having to wait my turn. Like I said, my opportunity came, and I had to seize the moment. Just being patient and staying consistent is never easy having to wait for your turn. When you finally get your opportunity, you just got to make the most of it.”
Unfortunately, his bigger opportunities have stemmed from injuries to the starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire. That was the case on Sunday — when Edwards-Helaire missed with a shoulder injury.
The nature of the running back position requires all levels of the depth chart to be ready to step in at any time, and Williams has excelled in that role his entire career. Combined with his noticeable improvement as a ball carrier and receiver this year, it’s easy to wonder what he could do with consistent, starter-level workloads.
“I think the sky is the limit for him,” Bieniemy described. “I think Darrel can be as good as he wants to be, and I think that he has a lot of football left in him. So, I think over time, he’s just going to continue to grow, and I think he’s just going to continue to improve throughout his entire career. But the thing I love about him, the kid is a humble, hard-working kid that just wants to find a way to help us to be successful. That’s the thing I respect and love about him.”
As Williams continues to raise his ceiling as a player, it only boosts the floor of the entire offense. It doesn’t hurt to have multiple running backs that look capable of being the primary player — and intelligently utilizing the different ways each back contributes allows them to be that much more efficient on a play-to-play basis.
That said, Williams has made a strong case to be the best runner, receiver and blocker of the group this season — so when the best players are needed on the most important offensive snaps this postseason, don’t be surprised if it’s Williams in the backfield.