Kansas City's Clyde Edwards-Helaire struggled through a season of inefficiency and injuries during his third year, his worst yet as a pro.
His performance led the Chiefs to decline his fifth-year option over the offseason, but Edwards-Helaire doesn't look back on his down 2022 as a reason to stay down.
"You can't really, you know, shoot for the stars if you're not aiming for the things in order to get to the stars," Edwards-Helaire said Tuesday, per the team transcript. "So you've got to go through some planets and other things in order to get to where you're trying to go. There were some things, some trials and tribulations throughout that time but it was never just down and out. I was just doing the things I needed to do in the building (and) outside the building in order to get to the position that I am today as far as practicing."
CEH's greatest trial last season was his Week 11 high ankle sprain, but he was running into trouble before sustaining that injury, which kept him out the rest of the season despite Kansas City activating him from injured reserve in advance of its Super Bowl victory.
Edwards-Helaire started the team's first six games of the season and did score seven total touchdowns, but that was somewhat a byproduct of the Chiefs' high-powered offense. The third-year back warranted over 10 carries in a game just once while averaging 42.7 rushing yards as the RB1.
Head coach Andy Reid then elected to entrust the starting role to seventh-rounder Isiah Pacheco in Week 7, and he hardly looked back. While Pacheco saw his star rise, leading all Chiefs RBs with 830 rushing yards and becoming the go-to back down the stretch, Edwards-Helaire's star dimmed considerably. The veteran runner had just 11 total touches in the four games before his injury once Pacheco took over.
Pacheco is roundly considered to be the team's lead back heading into 2023 considering how the 2022 season ended. Still, Edwards-Helaire will be a valuable source of information for the second-year RB, especially considering his downturn following a promising rookie season of his own.
Edwards-Helaire rushed for 803 yards and caught 36 passes in 2020 with Kansas City. He's seen both totals drop in each of his two subsequent seasons, down to 302 rushing yards and 17 receptions last year.
"I would say things get slightly more difficult in the fact that people just watch a little bit more film," Edwards-Helaire said regarding his advice for Pacheco. "You have more film, it's not like people (are) going and watching college film on you. But, even with that case it's yeah, it gets a little difficult but he's also learning. Like, this is not a place that you come in and it's your first year and you're rolling and then we just kind of, 'OK, he's straight.' We go in, we bounce things off of each other as far as the things that he may feel he needs to work on."
As Pacheco looks to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, Edwards-Helaire will look to overcome last year and stay healthy. Together with fellow veteran Jerick McKinnon, he will round out the top three slots in Kansas City's RB room.
It might not be the lead position Edwards-Helaire is used to, but Reid has rarely utilized a full-on workhorse running back in recent years, instead electing to highlight specialties like he did with McKinnon's career-high 56 catches in 2022. All of the runners will get work, and it's even more important they're ready when their number is called as Kansas City adjusts to an overhaul at wide receiver for a second straight year.
"Just with OTAs we were laughing today, I'm like, 'Man I don't mind taking half as many reps in OTAs,'" Edwards-Helaire said. "We don't have pads on, but you know, once camp comes, we're going to need that three, four-headed monster. Because that's just what it is because it's a 17-game season and as we can tell, man, the running back position is not getting loved like it has been. So, the only thing we can do is kind of gel as a unit and move that way and try to be a powerhouse."