The Kansas City Chiefs are traveling to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Super Bowl LV and will likely have running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Le’Veon Bell and Darwin Thompson all healthy enough to play. But how will their touches be spread out? We’ll take a look at how the backfield has evolved this season and how it might look on game day.
The evolution of the Chiefs backfield through 2020
The Chiefs started the season by losing their 2020 starter, Damien Williams, as he chose to opt-out due to Covid-19 concerns. But, the Chiefs had picked LSU running back Edwards-Helaire at 32nd overall in the first round of the draft. Behind him were Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson.
Edwards-Helaire started the season on a strong note, as he rushed 25 times for 138 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against the Texans. He didn’t have any receptions, but that changed over the next two weeks, as he accumulated 11 receptions for 102 yards to go with 30 carries for 102 yards. Through the first six weeks Edwards-Helaire had 128 touches and ranked fourth in the league in total touches. Then came Le’Veon Bell.
Bell was a disgruntled employee under Adam Gase and the New York Jets and was released. The Chiefs picked him up and he played his first game in Week 7, which is also when Edwards-Helaire’s touches started to fall. From Weeks 7-15, Bell averaged 8.5 touches to Edwards-Helaire’s 11.1 touches, down from his 21.3 average through the first six weeks.
When Edwards-Helaire was injured against the Saints though, it was Darrell Williams who ended up leading the way, as he had 14 touches to Bell’s 10 and performed better in Week 16 against the Falcons.
Williams continued to lead the way in the playoffs with Edwards-Helaire sidelined, as he had 17 touches for 72 yards against the Cleveland Browns while Bell bad two carries and two targets.
Edwards-Helaire was able to return from his ankle and hip injury in the AFC Championship game against the Buffalo Bills. But, Williams again led in touches with 14 for 53 yards and a touchdown while Edwards-Helaire had seven touches for 7 yards, while Bell was out with a knee injury. Edwards-Helaire did actually play a few more snaps, as he started, but Williams was the lead back for the second half.
What to expect from the Chiefs RBs in Super Bowl LV
Predicting the Chiefs backfield for the Super Bowl is going to be tricky. Williams has played well, but the team would assuredly rather have a full healthy Edwards-Helaire as the lead. But, the rookie didn’t look fully healthy against the Bills and that could have been the reason Williams was the man in the second half.
The question for the title game is how healthy is Edwards-Helaire, because if he’s truly ready, he should lead the way. But if he is still less than 100 percent, Williams could again see a nice workload.
Overall, we probably need to expect either a 50/50 split backfield or Edwards-Helaire back as the lead with Williams getting enough work to have a shot at a touchdown. I’ll go with the latter, as I believe in the rookie’s ability and with two extra weeks, he should be feeling pretty good.