Jerick McKinnon is in his second season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Their running back room is deep, but McKinnon deserves a spot. Here’s why he belongs.
Jerick McKinnon did not become a member of the 2022 Chiefs until June 14th when he re-signed with the team on a one-year, $1.2 million deal. It was rumored for months that the Chiefs wanted to bring McKinnon back, but had off-season injury issues that delayed his return. He had surgery to repair a sports hernia and needed to be medically cleared before any team would take a chance. With McKinnon back in tow, is there room for him to make the team’s 53-man roster?
Despite Injuries For Chiefs’ McKinnon, He’s Earned A Place In KC
Injuries with McKinnon have been a common occurrence during his career. The most carries he’s had in any season of his career was 159 back in 2016. He only had 12 carries during the regular season for the Chiefs last season after dealing with nagging minor injuries. However, he was healthy in the playoffs for Kansas City last season.
He made the most of it, carrying the ball 34 total times for 150 yards during their three-game playoff run. McKinnon also hauled in 14 receptions for another 165 yards. That is an average of 105 yards per game, more than any other Chiefs player not named Patrick Mahomes. It is this playoff run that had fans demanding his return to Kansas City.
This year McKinnon rejoined the team in a running back room full of talent. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is still the team’s number one running back, at least to start the season. That is frustrating to some fans, myself included because Edwards-Helaire has not earned that trust. When he has played he’s played okay, nothing horrible, but nothing special either. His biggest problem is that he just cannot stay healthy long enough to get into any kind of rhythm in the offense.
With the health status of McKinnon unclear during the off-season, the Chiefs signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Ronald Jones II to a $1.5 million deal. Jones was a reliable backup for the Bucs since he was drafted in 2018. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid likes having a reliable veteran in the backup running back position, and not knowing if McKinnon would be available, he picked up a solid option in Jones.
Unfortunately for Jones, he’s not had a good camp. He’s been bad on pass protection, doesn’t play special teams, and hasn’t shown much with the ball in his hand. I’d be shocked at this point if he’s on the final 53-man roster. Derrick Gore has some bright spots last season, but he is not going to be on the Chiefs in 2022. I could see him being on the practice squad, as a known commodity if injuries happen, but that’s it. His fumble in the Chiefs pre-season game sealed his fate of being cut.
McKinnon Has A Leg Up On The Chiefs’ Depth Chart Competition
The rest of the room is filled with youth in rookie Jerrion Ealy, Tayon Fleet-Davis, and Isiah Pacheco. Pacheco has been the undisputed star of the training camp. He’s shown a speed and burst through the hole that we haven’t seen in Kansas City since Jamaal Charles. No, I am not saying he’s Charles at all, it is just that since Charles no Chiefs running back has had that speed and burst. Kareem Hunt was great, but he was more a broken tackle guy than a “find a hole” sort of back.
Pacheco is the future of the Chiefs’ running game. Edwards-Helaire is the early season starter. This leaves an open spot for a trusted veteran who can do anything Reid needs him to. It is that versatility that I believe has him locked McKinnon into a spot on the Chiefs’ 53-man roster. He can play special teams as a returner or defender. He’s got the hands and blocking ability to be a trusted third-down back. Then there are the basics of he’s proven to be dependable running the ball.
Now he’s not great at any of those things, so he is not ever going to be a feature back for KC. But he’ll be the swiss army knife that coach Reid can trust when “CEH” goes down without throwing Pacheco into the fire too early. McKinnon isn’t flashy and won’t be the reason the Chiefs win games. But what he will do is be dependable. He has a strong chance of being a reason why the Chiefs don’t lose a game. That is what you need from depth players at any position.