KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was far from a bust as a rookie and first-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs last season. He finished fourth in rushing (803 yards) among rookie backs and was tied for third in catches (36). Those numbers were even better considering he missed three games with hip and ankle injuries.
But he didn’t have a great impact in terms of big plays. The Chiefs and Edwards-Helaire believe there will be more for him out there this season.
The biggest leap for Edwards-Helaire could be as a receiver. The Chiefs lost their No. 2 wide receiver, Sammy Watkins, and didn’t replace him from outside the team, so they’re looking for someone to pick up his catches.
Edwards-Helaire said he spent the offseason working on his receiving.
“We move the ball around, we spread the field and why not work on something that I feel like I can improve on?” he said. “So that was one of my steps as far as improvement.”
Coach Andy Reid said, “We didn’t have a huge expanded role for him in the pass game, just kind of getting him in the swing of the defenses that the NFL plays and then all the run plays that we have and the routes that we did have that tie in with everybody. But we tried to give him a little bit more this offseason and he’s handled it well.”
Edwards-Helaire had one of his best receiving games last year against the Dolphins in Week 14, when he had five catches for 59 yards. He was injured in the next week’s game, knocking him out of the lineup for the remainder of the regular season.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes said it’s no coincidence Edwards-Helaire had one of his best receiving games late in the season.
“At the end of last year you could see that transition happening,” Mahomes said. “Those college running backs, when they come into the NFL it takes them a couple of games to get used to how the game is played. You could see it right before the injury last year of how he was evolving and I think you see that as he came into training camp this year.”
Edwards-Helaire said, “It’s really just [about] being trusted. I was a rookie last year. Week in and week out they see it at practice but when it’s game time everybody kind of gets into their own rhythm. Pat kind of got comfortable. Everything was kind of [fast] at the beginning of the season.
“This offseason was big for me. I was working on my hands, working on routes because I knew that was something that was going to be pinpointed [this season].”
Having the same offense carry over from Year 1 to Year 2 will be a major benefit for Edwards-Helaire.
“In my three years at LSU, I had three different offenses,” Edwards-Helaire said. “Just having the time to have the same offense going into the next year was very relaxing for me and I was able to work on a lot of things that I needed to work on.”
The Chiefs’ offseason offensive line rebuild — they will likely have five new starters from last season when the regular season begins — was aimed at more than just better protecting Mahomes. The Chiefs also believe their line changes will improve the running game.
Edwards-Helaire averaged 4.4 yards per carry last season, which isn’t bad but still the lowest average for the back who led the Chiefs in rushing since 2016. Edwards-Helaire and the Chiefs also had problems running in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but they converted a third-and-2 running play with Edwards-Helaire on their first try in the preseason against the 49ers.
“A lot of [running game success] is based off the passing game,” Edwards-Helaire said. “That’s what this offense is built off of. The times that we do run the ball effectively, [the opposing defense] is worried about the pass. Having Pat Mahomes on our side and Tyreek [Hill] and Mecole [Hardman] and Travis [Kelce], it only benefits me as an running back.”