What happened to Clyde Edwards-Helaire? How injuries, inconsistent play derailed Chiefs RB’s 2023 season

Clyde Edwards-Helaire came to the NFL with high expectations. One of only seven running backs drafted in the first round in the past five years, Edwards-Helaire was seen as adding another dimension to the Chiefs, who had relied on Patrick Mahomes’ arm and thrived on a consistent running game lacked.

Just three years after being pulled from LSU, Edwards-Helaire could potentially see his time at Kansas City coming to an end. As the Chiefs prepare to play their second Super Bowl since arriving in Missouri, Edwards-Helaire is hoping to make his first appearance for the team in nearly three months. In his place, Isiah Pacheco, a Rutgers seventh-round running back, has established himself as the team’s running back.

As the season wraps up after the Super Bowl, Kansas City faces the question of whether to pick up his fifth-year option for the 2024 campaign or whether he’ll even be on the team in 2023 after Pacheco’s emergence.

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Why is Edwards-Helaire’s future with the team suddenly in question? Here’s what you need to know.

What happened to Clyde Edwards Helaire?

Edwards-Helaire came into the 2022 season about as much in the hot seat as it gets for a runback. He was second on the team in rushing yards to assist Darrel Williams after suffering a knee injury that cost him seven games during the regular season.

But Edwards-Helaire did little to help his cause early in the season. Although Edwards-Helaire started each of the first six games of the year, his production was inconsistent at best. He had 59 carries for 256 yards (4.3 yards per attempt; 42.7 yards per game) with two touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 16 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns.

In short appearances, Pacheco showed a little more explosiveness. In the only two games in that span in which he received more than three carries, he averaged at least 5.2 yards per attempt both times, officially taking the starting spot after the team’s 24-20 loss to the Bills.

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Though the Chiefs said Edwards-Helaire would continue to share snaps with Pacheco, Edwards-Helaire’s usage has plummeted. He went from at least seven carries in each of the first six games (and nine in each of the previous three before he was substituted) to six carries in Week 7, four in Week 9 after the bye, none in Week 10 and two in Week 11 .

During that Week 11 matchup with the Chargers, Edwards-Helaire suffered a sprained ankle and was on injured reserve days later. He has remained in IR since the injury. The Chiefs had said there was a chance he could be activated for the AFC Championship, but he remained sidelined for the Bengals clash. Whether he will face the Eagles in the Super Bowl is yet to be seen.

In Edwards-Helaire’s absence, Pacheco walked away with the starting spot. Since being named the Week 7 starter, he has 161 carries for 802 yards and five rushing touchdowns while catching 17 passes for 166 yards since being named the Week 7 starter. Pacheco averaged 4.9 yards per carry in his first season as chief, which is 0.5 yards per carry better than Edwards-Helaire’s best season (2020), and his 830 total rushing yards is 27 more than Edwards-Helaire’s best season (2020).

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Pacheco’s emergence will present Kansas City with a difficult offseason discussion. Edwards-Helaire has a $3.4 million cap hit and his fifth-year option available for 2024 should the Chiefs decide to bring him back. But with Pacheco capping just $889,777 and never exceeding $1.1 million in 2023, which will be 2025, his final year of contract, it could make sense for the Chiefs to consider a possible trade of Edwards-Helaire to give him some space and unquestioningly hand the reins of the running back position to Pacheco.

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