KC Chiefs Have High Praise for Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco as Season Winds Down
The Kansas City Chiefs will be fine-tuning their game plan in the final two games of their regular-season schedule in order to be a complete team by playoff time. While the passing game, defense, special teams and special teams are all important components of this equation, running the football has been a key part of the team’s success.
Kansas City chose to give Clyde Edwards Helaire, a third-year player, the running back position. Veteran Jerick McKinnon was there to provide support and veteran Isiah Pacheco was more of a future prospect than anything. The season was less than half-way through, however, Pacheco surpassed Edwards-Helaire in the depth chart, and McKinnon’s workload remained significant. With Edwards-Helaire out of action, the Chiefs’ running team has produced an impressive level ..
For the year, the Chiefs rank 17th among the NFL in team running yards per game at 117.1. In their first eight games, they averaged 103.5 yard per outing with an average of 4.5 yards-per carry. The team has seen these figures rise to 132.6 & 5.0, respectively. Over the course of a full season, that would rank 10th in the league. The Chiefs are now more likely to play complementary football as Pacheco’s upgrade over Edwards–Helaire is a credit to all involved. Running backs coach Greg Lewis also credits everyone involved.
“Pop (Isiah Pacheco) has done an incredible job of leaning upon Jerick and Burt (Michael Burton), and Clyde, Melvin (Gordon), RoJo(Ronald Jones), Lewis stated. “Just getting that professionalism and understanding different aspects about running back and what it takes to be successful, and then going out and putting it into practice when he gets the opportunity. They seem to have a good rhythm right now, and when everyone else is available and we get the chance to get other guys in there, I think it will be a seamless transition. Kansas City’s Pacheco has a tough-nosed runner that plays like every snap could possibly be his last. He packs a punch McKinnon, Edwards-Helaire don’t have. He fights for extra yards in ways that they may not be able to. Although Pacheco is still young, his ability to pass protect and keep the ball in his hands will occasionally show. However, his vision and patience have improved over the course of the season. He is the Chiefs’ best pure runner right now, although it may not be close.
McKinnon is the elder statesman in the running backroom at 30, and he signed a one-year contract with the team during the offseason. He had been a strong performer late last year. Similar trends are evident now with McKinnon scoring six touchdowns in the last four games. McKinnon is a great pass-blocking running back in the league. He’s also a dynamic receiving threat from the backfield and a danger as a runner. He may be the most complete halfback the Chiefs have. Eric Bieniemy, the offensive coordinator, praised McKinnon this Week, referring to McKinnon as an additional coach in the lineup. Bieniemy stated
“Jerick was very valuable. It’s always good for Pat (Mahomes) to look downfield to make a big play. If nothing’s there, he can dump it off to Jerick. Jerick is doing a fantastic job as a receiver. But, he’s also doing a great deal in pass protection and picking up the blitzes when they come. He’s also doing a great job in the run-game. His leadership is another thing that isn’t often mentioned enough. These guys are blessed with his exceptional leadership skills. He is like a coach, an additional coach on the field. “
Kansas City will need to have its running game in its back pocket with just a few weeks left in the regular-season before it faces tougher opponents and more difficult conditions in the postseason. Andy Reid-coached teams will always have a preference for passing, but that has been a blessing for the Chiefs more than a curse. The team isn’t going anywhere if Edwards-Helaire is back from injury. The Chiefs’ coaches are proud of the dynamic duo and feel confident in the group they have.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.