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Chiefs Position Battle Breakdown And Analysis: Running Back

Who do you think will be the starting running back for the Chiefs next season?

From: https://thegameday.com/; Scott Engel

When the Chiefs used a first-round pick on Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2020, the assumption was that he would become a very productive featured running back. In the current era of the NFL, running backs have been devalued in the draft, so any significant draft capital spent on one means the player is likely ticketed for a major role in the offense of the team that selects him. 

Since Jamaal Charles’ last full season of production in 2014, the Chiefs have not been able to depend on any running back consistently. After two seasons in the league, Edwards-Helaire has failed to live up to the expectations that were naturally put on a first-round RB working in the AFC’s best offense. So, the team decided to bring in another notable player at the position who can push Edwards-Helaire for playing time and hopefully increase the Kansas City’s AFC odds to bring the trophy home another time around if he lives up to expectations.

Chiefs RB Showdown: Clyde Edwards-Helaire Vs. Ronald Jones II

Kansas City Brings In Competition For Edwards-Helaire

Ronald Jones II, a former second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was signed to a one-year deal in the offseason. Jones, much like Edwards-Helaire, has shown some promise but never quite delivered as hoped in his four seasons in Tampa Bay. Eventually, he was overshadowed by postseason hero Leonard Fournette, but he will have a chance to re-energize his career with the Chiefs. 

We could see a spirited but friendly competition for playing time between Edwards-Helaire and Jones in the preseason. While both of them would prefer to get more carries over the other, sharing the same position and room in meetings and being part of the same groupings in practices and workouts usually will lead to a good bond between the teammates. 

But there is no question that both running backs have much to prove this year. Both will be highly motivated to come through with the best seasons of their careers so far. 

Edwards-Helaire is having his playing time seriously threatened by Jones. In the past two seasons, he was the number one running back when he was healthy. Bringing in Jones could spark Edwards-Helaire to finally show he is worthy of his first-round draft label. 

Jones is playing on an incentive-laden one-year contract and was brought in because it has become apparent that the Chiefs need better insurance at RB if Edwards-Helaire continues to demonstrate he is not capable of being a pure featured back. They also will have to turn to Jones as a frequent ball carrier if Edwards-Helaire misses any time with injuries in 2022. 

Edwards-Helaire has rushed for just four touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, and Jones could become more of a goal-line presence for the Chiefs this year. He did score seven rushing touchdowns for Tampa Bay in 2020. We are likely headed for a time share at running back unless Edwards-Helaire blows everyone away with his performance in training camp. 

In his first pro season, Edwards-Helaire certainly did not perform as hoped overall after a great debut outing. But considering that the pandemic led to a very unusual preseason for most rookies, we were willing to give Edwards-Helaire a mulligan for his overall performance in his rookie campaign. 

We Could See A Shared Workload In 2022

Last season, Edwards-Helaire did run hard at times, such as when he rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games in Weeks Three and Four. But then he went on injured reserve with a knee issue and was not the same runner when he returned. In the final five games of the regular season and two playoff games, Edwards-Helaire did not rush for more than 65 yards in a game and never reached the 30-yard receiving mark. 

Truthfully, maybe we were expecting too much out of Edwards-Helaire, and the Chiefs were. He may not be built to be a heavy carry RB at five-foot-eight, 209 pounds. 

Having Jones in the mix, which can be more of an inside banger, can give the Chiefs a quality pair of RBs to work with. If both are utilized often, it will keep both running backs fresher, expose them less to injuries, and possibly wear defenses down over the course of a game. 

Edwards-Helaire has caught just 55 passes in his first two seasons, but it is possible he may be featured more as a pass-catcher this year. The Chiefs could potentially employ an effective RB duo if they use Jones more often as an inside runner and goal-line back while Edwards-Helaire operates more in space and on the perimeter. 

We will very likely see Edwards-Helaire still get a chance to show he can be the No. 1 running back of the two. But Jones should still get at least 40 percent of the carries. We will have to wait and see how much of a split workload it turns out to be, and that may be fully on Edwards-Helaire to demonstrate that he should not lose out to Jones for more work than that. 

The Game Day’s Position Battle Prediction: This will be a timeshare in which Edwards-Helaire gets slightly more work and should be used as the preferred receiver out of the backfield. But the days of possibly viewing him as the possible feature back or one who takes most of the reps will be over. Jones will score more rushing touchdowns and outperform Edwards-Helaire in a few games. Andy Reid will ride with the hotter hand when he can.