The Kansas City Chiefs off-season activities are underway, and already some young players are beginning to stand out. While it’s important to note that all coaches lie at this point in the season, rookie running back Darwin Thompson is getting a significant amount of praise from the coaching staff. While Damien Williams currently sits atop the depth chart, Thompson could earn a role if he continues to progress.
Kansas City Chiefs OTA Takeaways: Darwin Thompson Making Impressions
Darwin Thompson has barely had more than a cup of coffee with the Kansas City Chiefs organization, yet he’s already impressing offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. When asked about the sixth-round rookie, Bieniemy called Thompson “incredible” and a person “you fall in love with”. The offensive coordinator continued to say 123 words about Thompson’s talent, which “speaks for itself” and his “tremendous” work ethic.
This is the time for hyperbole, but Thompson easily received the most praise from Bieniemy out of any player. Seeing as he’s the offensive coordinator, this bodes well for Thompson’s career. Even though he’s currently buried on the depth chart, there’s reason to believe he can quickly climb the ranks in Kansas City.
Why Thompson Can Climb the Depth Chart
Anyone who watched the 2018 Chiefs knows that Damien Williams came on strong to finish the season. Stepping in for Kareem Hunt, the former Miami Dolphin recorded 256 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 50 carries, good for 5.1 yards-per-attempt. Additionally, he added 23 receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season. On paper, this was a fantastic production which should ensure job security.
However, the film tells a dramatically different story. Williams entered 2018 as a journeyman backup who never impressed during four years with the Dolphins. During his time in Miami, Williams recorded just 3.6 yards-per-carry on 133 attempts. This average is truly atrocious and made him one of the least efficient running backs in the league. His 2018 season truly came out of nowhere, and there are two explanations for his success. Either Andy Reid found a way to eliminate his flaws, or Williams was simply placed in the perfect situation.
A deeper dive in the numbers suggests the later. Teams were afraid of Patrick Mahomes’ ability to throw the ball and basically allowed Kansas City to run the ball at will. Williams faced just 6.4 men in the box per carry, which is well below the league average. Additionally, Williams ranked just 112th in yards created per carry, which obviously isn’t good. He simply couldn’t pick up any yardage aside from what the blocking provided.
If Damien Williams had a breakout season in 2018, then Carlos Hyde had a broken season. The former second-round pick averaged just 3.3 yards-per-carry in 14 games with the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars. While his subpar performance was partially due to atrocious situations, there’s no denying that Hyde simply didn’t perform well when given the ball. Additionally, he offers next-to-nothing as a pass-catcher, which is a problem in this offense.
Darwin Thompson Primed for Breakout
Damien Williams isn’t a good running back and Carlos Hyde is too one-dimensional to play all three downs. This leaves opportunity for others, and Thompson is in position to capitalize on said opportunity. Damien Williams can adequately start, but Kansas City shouldn’t be afraid to let Darwin Thompson take over if he proves to be the better player.
The coaching staff loves him, and it’s easy to see why. The Utah State product has good vision and showed promise as a pass-catcher, averaging 15.3 yards-per-reception in 2018. Additionally, he’s a good athlete who would have tested in the top-five at his position in a few drills if he were invited to the NFL Combine.
It won’t be easy for Thompson, as Williams played well last year and received a contract extension for his efforts. However, the rookie has already impressed the coaches and could continue his rise over the off-season. Most sixth-round picks don’t turn into instant-impact players, but most sixth-round picks aren’t Darwin Thompson.
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