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

Clyde Edwards-Helaire came into the NFL with lofty expectations. One of only seven running backs drafted in the first round over the past five years, Edwards-Helaire was looked at as adding another dimension to the Chiefs, who had become reliant on Patrick Mahomes' arm and had lacked a consistent running game.

Just three years since he was taken out of LSU, Edwards-Helaire could potentially see his time with Kansas City come to an end. As the Chiefs prepare to play in their second Super Bowl since Edwards-Helaire arrived in Missouri, Edwards-Helaire will be a healthy scratch. In his place, Isiah Pacheco, a seventh-round running back from Rutgers, has established himself as the team's go-to running back.

Here are our inactives for #SBLVII:

QB Shane Buechele
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
DE Joshua Kaindoh
C Austin Reiter
T Darian Kinnard
TE Blake Bell
DE Malik Herring

— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) February 12, 2023

When the season comes to an end after the Super Bowl, Kansas City will be faced with the question as to whether to pick up his fifth-year option for the 2024 campaign, or even whether he will be on the team at all in 2023 after Pacheco's emergence.

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

Clyde Edwards Helaire 10102021

What happened to Clyde Edwards-Helaire?

Edwards-Helaire came into the 2022 season about as much on the hot seat as it gets for a running back. He was second on the team in rushing yards to backup Darrel Williams after dealing with 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. Despite starting each of the first six games of the year, Edwards-Helaire's 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.

During brief appearances, Pacheco showed off some more explosiveness. During 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, and officially took over 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 dropped off precipitously. 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 replaced) 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 high-ankle sprain, and days later, he was on the injured reserve. He has remained on the 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 clash with the Bengals. It is still up in the air whether he will suit up against the Eagles in the Super Bowl.

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

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The emergence of Pacheco will bring up a difficult offseason discussion for Kansas City. Edwards-Helaire has a cap hit of $3.4 million and has his fifth-year option for 2024 available, should the Chiefs decide to bring him back. But with Pacheco taking a cap hit of only $889,777 in 2023 and never more than $1.1 million, which will be in 2025, his last year under contract, it might make sense for the Chiefs to explore a potential trade of Edwards-Helaire to free up some space and hand the reins of the running back position unquestionably to Pacheco.

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