While expectations for the Chiefs are high, the expectations for the players themselves are as well. Kansas City Chiefs’ running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, has expectations set to be one of the higher earners in all-purpose yardage for sophomore running backs in the NFL. PFF projects Helaire to have 1,325 yards in the 2021/22 NFL season:
Those are pretty high projections for Helaire. Last season, he finished with 1,100 all-purpose yards, ranking him fifth amongst rookies and 18th amongst all running backs in the league. In total, he had 803 rushing yards on 181 rush attempts, averaging 4.4 yards per rush, 297 receiving yards on 36 receptions, averaging 8.3 yards per reception, and five total touchdowns.
The question, however, is can he live up to these expectations? Let’s break down the case, and find out:
Remember What Offense He’s On
Helaire is on one of the most high-powered offenses in all of the NFL, created by Super Bowl-winning HC Andy Reid and led by former MVP and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes. The offense itself averaged 414.7 yards per game (1st in the league). They even finished in the top five in yards per play (2nd, 6.3), first downs per game (1st, 24.8), first downs per play (2nd, .377), and third-down conversion percentage (3rd, 48.02%).
This is easily one of the top-three offenses in the NFL, with credit to Reid and Bieniemy. As the offense gets more comfortable with each other, the better they’ll do on the field. It’s easy to see that Mahomes trusts all his teammates, especially Helaire. This offense is a monstrosity, and it has only improved during the offseason.
A Vastly Improved O-Line
With a battered offensive line last season, the Chiefs didn’t do too bad rushing-wise, averaging 112.8 rushing yards per game, which is in the dead center of the NFL (16th). Helaire had a solid year too, averaging 84.6 total yards per game. I’ve written about and talked about this a lot, but I’m sure we’re all clear of the debacle of the offensive line in SB55. It was time for a rebrand.
Veach did just that. In the interior, the Chiefs signed former Patriots guard Joe Thuney for five years for $80 million, signed former Bears guard Kyle Long for one year, $1.5 million, signed former Rams center Andrew Blythe, drafted Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey, and drafted Tennessee guard Trey Smith. Those aren’t bad additions at all, with a 3x pro bowler, a 2x Super Bowl champion, and two former first-team All-American offensive linemen.
On the exterior, the Chiefs traded for LT Orlando Brown from the Baltimore Ravens. The Chiefs also resigned RT Mike Remmers, and RT Lucas Niang will be coming back after opting out of the 2020 season.
These new additions will already bolster an already solid rushing attack into, possibly, one of the most elite ones in the NFL. All of these offensive linemen will get able to keep their assignments at bay while also crating holes for Helaire to run by. Thuney is solid in run blocking along with most of the new linemen; this will be an interesting year.
Even if he has the same averages, he can still go over the projection
Helaire doesn’t even need vast improvement in his game to even shatter this projection. As I stated earlier, he average 84.6 total yards per game (rushing + receiving). Well, if we multiply that by 17 (games), he’ll get 1,438 yards if he stays healthy for the season and doesn’t miss any games. Honestly, he could truly only miss one game for this stat to hold true.
Of course, we all know stat averages very rarely stick from one season to the next; Helaire will either go down or up in production.
What Do The Coaches Think?
Of course, we always want an insight into what the coaching staff thinks of him. Chiefs’ Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy already has an idea of what to expect from Helaire this upcoming season. He answered a question on how Helaire’s progress has been thus far:
Well, the thing is just making sure that he has a better understanding of exactly what we’re doing. When you come in as a rookie, obviously, everything is brand new — and every week is a new playbook for you, in a sense. And so, he’s had an opportunity to get a season under his feet. Now, obviously, he’s had an opportunity to get out here and listen, be a part of the meetings. And so, everything is starting to make more sense to him. And so, with him growing with the wisdom that he has obtained in our system, it’s going to help him to know exactly what we expect him to do when placed in those certain situationsChiefs OC, Eric Bieniemy
You have to agree with Bieniemy here. Once you come into this league, everything is brand new; the systems, the practices, and so on. It takes a while to get used to, just like any new job or hobby you’re starting. Now that Helaire has a year under his belt, he understands more of what the Chiefs’ offensive system is, and he’ll be able to perform better after fixing his mistakes from last season.
With everything stated above, I believe we can expect that Helaire can shatter the yards projection PFF has set for him. With the offense he’s on, an improved offensive line, his overall skill set, averages, and him being more used to the Chiefs’ playbook, I don’t see how he can’t go over what’s projected for him. Unless injuries occur, but that’s the only way I can see this happening.
It’ll be captivating to see what Helaire can do once Week 1 of the 2021/22 NFL season rolls around!
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