Let’s go back to the 2020 offseason, when the Kansas City Chiefs spent their first-round selection on running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
There were positive and negative reviews of the team’s selection of a running back — but no one disputed the kind of player the Chiefs were getting: a dynamic back who could also contribute as a legitimate receiving threat. There were high expectations for his first season; plugged-in reporters like Peter Schrager led the hype train.
What'd we learn this month? @PSchrags says that there are higher expectations for Clyde Edwards-Helaire (@Clydro_22 ) in Year 1 than maybe any NFL running back...ever.— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) September 4, 2020
And he's up for the challenge. @Chiefs | @ArrowheadPride pic.twitter.com/g7RfgtBs3G
Edwards-Helaire went on to have a pretty strong rookie season — but it didn’t look quite like we anticipated. So far, we have only seen flashes of the receiving skills that made him an exciting draft pick.
None of this, however, has impacted Edwards-Helaire’s confidence in that phase of his game; he knows that part of his skillset just needs to be shown off more often.
“I’m 1,010% confident in my hands,” he declared to reporters after the Chiefs’ Thursday training camp practice session at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri. “I feel like I’m one of the best pass catchers as far as running backs in the league; I’ll completely stand on that.”
Over the last two years, Edwards-Helaire has caught 55 passes for 426 yards and three touchdowns. He has had meaningful production — but for running backs in head coach Andy Reid’s offenses, we’ve seen single-season box scores with more.
Edwards-Helaire believes he has more receiving production to give — and thinks the team wants to get him there in 2022.
“That’s one of those things that Coach EB [Eric Bieniemy] and coach Reid are trying to implement,” he revealed. “It’s one of Pat’s [quarterback Patrick Mahomes] things too: ‘I don’t have to just throw it to the receivers, I can throw it anybody on the field.’ We throw it to linemen, too. We throw the ball to everybody.”
And much about the Kansas City offense will be different in 2022. Offseason departures have vacated 50% of the team’s targets from last year. Edwards-Helaire believes that this turnover could open up the offense for the receiving side of his game.
“Concepts and personnel,” said Edwards-Helaire of how these changes will affect him. “If [Tyreek Hill] is 80 yards downfield and I’m running a flat, who are you throwing it to? I’m going to throw the touchdown.
“It’s those things that win games; that flat [route] might’ve pulled that linebacker out just so [Hill] can get up the field. Everyone benefits. But once you add in certain wrinkles and can implement me in the passing game — as far as being outside and not just running flats from a stationary spot — it gets a lot more fun for me and everybody else.”
Someone will have to take Darrel's place as the primary 3rd/pass down back. McKinnon will make his case, but I see CEH getting the opportunity— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) July 28, 2022
We know what he can do on screens / in space, but plays like these from his rookie yr show he can be asked to do more as a receiver pic.twitter.com/9r36MARuX5
Edwards-Helaire’s rookie season provided more opportunities to show off his pass-catching skills: he had 31 more targets that year. On these two plays from 2020, he’s making impressive downfield catches that would be regarded as highlights for a wide receiver.
But as he anticipates an expanded role for himself, Edwards-Helaire also sees the versatility by which he is surrounded.
“We have so many more new pieces,” he marveled. “We’ve got so many weapons, it’s to the point where I could be outside, Mecole [Hardman] could be in the backfield [and] we could put [Skyy Moore] in... It’s the whole understanding of the offense — once you have so many skill guys that can run anything and be in certain positions.”
Still, the running back remains focused on team wins — not just who played the greatest role to get them.
“I’m not a selfish guy; far from it,” he proclaimed. “If we’re getting down the field and we’re winning games, why complain about it? Some people would want the ball, but if that’s what’s working at that time? The next two weeks just might be my weeks... I put on a helmet that says ‘Chiefs.’ ‘Edwards-Helaire’ isn’t posted on everything that I have.”
That unselfishness is an important characteristic, but it’s secondary to the other motivation you can sense in Edwards-Helaire. For anyone, failing to live up to lofty expectations would be a big motivator. Now in his third year — and fresh off a full offseason — he may finally have the opportunity to meet those expectations.