After suffering serious-looking hip and ankle injuries during a Week 15 win in New Orleans last December, Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire declared himself “100% healthy” during his minicamp media availability on Wednesday, June 16.
The 2020 first-rounder did push hard to get back for the team’s playoff run — posting 94 total yards on 18 touches between the AFC Championship and Super Bowl after a month-long absence — but the latest update is a positive sign heading into his second full NFL season.
Now back at full strength and set to run behind a revamped offensive line in 2021, one analyst believes Edwards-Helaire has a chance to break a long-standing league record.
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CEH Named ‘Long Shot’ to Break NFL Rushing Record
Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record (2,105 yards) has withstood the test of time, having gone 37 years without a change atop the leaderboard. Last season, Tennessee Titans star Derrick Henry (2,027 yards) — the NFL’s leading rusher for the past two years — came closer to knocking off Dickerson’s 1984 mark than any back since Adrian Peterson (2,097) during his 2012 MVP campaign.
According to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, Henry remains the favorite in 2021, however, Edwards-Helaire has “long shot” potential to break into the record books.
Here was Barnwell’s justification in his new column, “Predicting which NFL players could break eight major records in 2021“:
Do you remember the games the Chiefs played against the Bills and Texans during the 2020 regular season? We saw Mahomes & Co. go up against two defenses that were perfectly happy to let Mahomes hand the ball off to his running back of choice. Edwards-Helaire carried the ball 51 times for 299 yards in those two games.
The Chiefs dramatically rebuilt their offensive line this offseason, and if teams get terrified of Mahomes, they might prefer to take their chances with the run. There’s no real threat to Edwards-Helaire’s playing time on the roster, so while I don’t think coach Andy Reid wants to give a running back 400 carries, Edwards-Helaire has more of a shot at a spectacular season than you might think.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Barnwell also named quarterback Patrick Mahomes and kicker Harrison Butker the favorites to respectively surpass a pair of high marks set in 2013: Peyton Manning’s single-season passing yards record (5,477) and Matt Prater’s single-season extra points record (75).
Edwards-Helaire’s Offseason Focus Suggests Different Outcome
Talking to reporters on Wednesday for the first time since February, the Chiefs 22-year-old lead back revealed that improving his hands and overall catch radius were among his biggest focal points this offseason.
“Talking to Coach [Andy] Reid and also Pat [Mahomes], there are things we’re implementing to get the ball to the back and just get the ball spread out more,” Edwards-Helaire said. “So, that was one of the things on why I chose to work on my hands and just be more of a threat.
“It was seen that I can run the ball between the tackles, outside. That was kind of seen, so just being able to also get out, and not just routes out of the backfield but also spread out in the slot position and also the outside wideout position. So, just being able to expand my skill set was my thing.”
After hauling in 55 passes across 15 games during his final season at LSU in 2019, Edwards-Helaire finished his rookie campaign with 36 receptions across 13 contests. The downtick in production in the passing game can primarily be contributed to a timeshare with Le’Veon Bell starting in Week 7 and later missing three of Kansas City’s last five regular season games.
Reid, who during the 2020 pre-draft scouting process called Edwards-Helaire “better” than former All-Pro Brian Westbrook in Philadelphia, may not hand the ball off enough his dynamic second-year back to allow him to approach the rushing title in 2021. All indications, though, point to Edwards-Helaire being more involved in the Chiefs’ No. 1 ranked passing attack going forward.
If history offers any indication of future production, Westbrook averaged 75.3 receptions per year between his 2004 and 2007 Pro Bowl seasons under Reid. Jamaal Charles also hauled in career-high 70 passes on 104 targets during Reid’s inaugural season in Kansas City in 2013, confirming that the 23-year veteran head coach has never been afraid to get his backs involved.
Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!