Chiefs plan to get Edwards-Helaire more involved this season

After injuries cut short his promising rookie season, Kansas City running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire looks to be a focal point of the Chiefs offense in 2021. Getting the ball to running backs in the passing game is one of the keys.



June 17, 2021 - 9:21 AM

Patrick Mahomes, right, of the Kansas City Chiefs hands off to Clyde Edwards-Helaire during the third quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. Photo by Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images / TNS

The deep passes receive all the attention, and make no mistake, a Patrick Mahomes throw and Mecole Hardman tip-drill catch down the sideline will be the highlight from the second day of the Chiefs’ mandatory three-day minicamp.

But it’s not the accurate depiction of Wednesday’s practice in its entirety.

No, the Chiefs instead focused much of their 11-on-11 work on getting their running backs involved in the passing game. On the first snap, Mahomes turned and threw a quick ball to Clyde Edwards-Helaire. By the time the initial segment had been completed, four different backs had receptions in the pass-only work in front of about 300 fans at the team’s practice facility.

By design, as it turns out.

After recovering from the hip and ankle injury that disrupted the end of his rookie season, Edwards-Helaire said he prioritized working on his hands.

“Talking to Coach (Andy) Reid and also Pat, there are some things we’re implementing to get the ball to the back and just spread it out more,” Edwards-Helaire said. “That’s one of the (reasons) why I chose to work on my hands and just be more of a threat.”

That was the thought coming out of college. Edwards-Helaire caught 55 passes in his senior season at LSU, and thus the fit with Reid seemed just too obvious. But his presence in the Chiefs’ pass-heavy attack was more sporadic. He had 33 receptions for just 297 yards and one touchdown in his rookie year.

The concept for this year? More.

He stands only 5-foot-7 but wants to widen his catch radius, so he set the Jugs machine to throw passes at his feet, above his head and the like.

The targets, he anticipates, could derive from the backfield but also a wide receiver spot. He has help in that transition — the Chiefs moved Greg Lewis, a former NFL wide receiver, from receivers coach to running backs coach this offseason.

“It was seen that I can run the ball between the tackles (and) outside. That was seen,” Edwards-Helaire said. “So just being able to also get out and (run) not just the routes out of the backfield but also spread out in the slot position and also the outside wideout position.

“Just being able to expand my skill-set was my thing.”


— The Chiefs completed their second day of mandatory minicamp without guard Kyle Long, who suffered a knee injury last week, lineman Martinas Rankin and safety Armani Watts.

— Cornerback Deandre Baker and defensive lineman Malik Herring were spotted at practice but without helmets.

— Center Austin Blythe did not participate in team 11-on-11 drills.

— Minicamp concludes today, after which players are off until training camp begins in late July. (Those dates are still being determined.)


Well, the Hardman play was indeed a thing of beauty. He and cornerback Mike Hughes both appeared to deflect the ball before it popped into the air, and Hardman, without breaking stride, ran under it for a long touchdown reception. The juggling act involved considerable concentration and perhaps a bit of luck — he didn’t even need to veer off course to slide his hands under the ball. Hardman had a strong day, the target of several passes throughout the day, including another deep ball against Hughes during 7-on-7 work.

— Chris Jones talked Wednesday of embracing a move from defensive tackle to defensive end. While the pads aren’t on and therefore linemen aren’t engaging in true blocks, he and defensive end Frank Clark were a presence in the backfield as coordinator Steve Spagnuolo worked on dialing up some pressure.

— Hughes had a pick-6 interception in his hands against quarterback Chad Henne, but he bobbled the ball, and Marcus Kemp plucked it out of the air for a reception. One play later, Kemp made an out-stretched catch.

— Late in the day, Henne found his target, tight end Nick Keizer, in the manner in which he intended, and Keizer hauled in one of the better catches of the pass-only team periods.