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Clyde Edwards-Helaire could start against Bills if Isiah Pacheco cannot play

Pacheco has missed two practices due to a shoulder issue.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco could be in danger of missing the team’s upcoming Week 14 game against the Buffalo Bills. Pacheco is coming off a game in which he was ejected for throwing a punch, but that’s not the problem at hand.

He popped up on the injury report with a shoulder contusion on Wednesday, and he missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’ll see,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy when asked about that prospect on Thursday. “If it goes that direction, and I think that room has done a good job. That’s one of the things — building depth in that room — when you have that, it’s always nice to have. ‘Pops’ has been phenomenal for us all year. You can see he brings that energy, that physicality, really starting to become that leader as well. The other guys in that room have done a good job all year long of just really starting to complete that room with joining [the] room [in] doing all the stuff we ask. It’s got to be the next-man-up mentality.”

2020 first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire projects to be the starter at running back should Pacheco be unable to go. He last started for the Chiefs on opening night of the 2023 NFL season.

As a third-down back, Edwards-Helaire has 47 touches for 184 scrimmage yards and a touchdown on the season.

“His speed looks good as far as his running between the tackles,” added Nagy of Edwards-Helaire’s minimal work. “He’s been really, really good — even mentally, when you go through a transition, or you go through what he’s been through the past couple of years.”

Pacheco replaced Edwards-Helaire as the starter midway through the 2022 season.

“He’s been a really good mentor and leader in the room,” noted Nagy. “It starts there, and when you get on the field, when given opportunities, he’s trying to make the most of it. That’s what I respect the most about him — and in these situations, the running back situation gets hit quite a bit. So if you have an injury or you have somebody for next-man-up, you want to have a guy like Clyde that’s ready.”

For what it’s worth, the greatest performance of Edwards-Helaire’s career game against the Bills back in 2020. In a Week 6 matchup, he rushed 26 times for 161 yards. He is likely to get a chance to match that outing if Pacehco misses another practice on Friday.

If Edwards-Helaire starts, Jerick McKinnon would take on the third-down role — should he be able to suit up. McKinnon has been listed on the injury report for the past few weeks with a groin issue; he hasn’t played since Kansas City’s November loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Chiefs would be expected to bring up La’Mical Perine or Deneric Prince as the third back.

“It’s your job as a professional to always prepare the right the right way, and then when you have that opportunity,” finished Nagy. “Clyde and these other guys — Clyde’s a vet, so he understands that. He gets it.”

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