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Andy Reid hypes up disappointing former first-round pick ahead of make-or-break year

By Vinny Somma,

Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire

With presumed starter Isiah Pacheco recovering from multiple offseason surgeries (broken hand and torn labrum) and Jerick McKinnon not yet in attendance, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has earned a healthy serving of the running back snaps in OTAs. By the sound of it, the LSU product is making the most of that added opportunity, leaving a lasting impression on Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.

“He came back in good shape and is working hard,” Reid told reporters this week. “He looks great, quick (and) strong. I’m happy for him.”

According to team reporter Matt McMullen, Edwards-Helaire made one of the top plays on Wednesday, hauling in a touchdown along the left sideline from quarterback Patrick Mahomes in 7-on-7 drills.

The Chiefs chose not to exercise Edwards-Helaire's fifth-year option earlier this offseason, meaning the former No. 32 overall pick will enter 2023 in the final year of his rookie contract.

Three years into his professional career, Edwards-Helaire is teetering on bust status. Dealing with an abundance of injuries and uneven play, the Baton Rouge, La., native has appeared in just 20 regular-season games since the start of 2021.

After amassing 1,100 yards from scrimmage during his rookie campaign, Edwards-Helaire has been on a downward trajectory ever since. His production has slipped in each of the past two seasons, culminating in a career-low 302 rushing yards in 2022. After scoring five touchdowns in the first four weeks of the season, he ultimately ceded the starting running back gig to Pacheco in Week 7 and eventually fell out of the backfield rotation altogether.

Despite his limited usage, there is still a lot to like when it comes to Edwards-Helaire. In three of the first four games of 2022, he either rushed for 90-plus yards or averaged 6.0 yards per carry. His 72 receptions over 33 career games make it apparent he's no slouch in the receiving game either. Plus, his 49.2 rushing yards per game over his career paces Kansas City's current slew of running backs.

Pacheco's efforts in the postseason and team-friendly contract ($870,000 base salary in 2023) are likely enough to pencil the former seventh-rounder in as Kansas City's Week 1 starter. Yet, there should be opportunities for Edwards-Helaire to rack up touches. From Week 16 through the Super Bowl, Pacheco averaged just 10.8 attempts per game.

Don't be surprised to see Edwards-Helaire push for a 1B role in the Chiefs backfield in what is bound to be a make-or-break year for the former first-rounder.

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