Kansas City Chiefs Running Backs: How To Divide Touches

Chiefs Running Backs

The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the more interesting stable of running backs in the league. With Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the injured reserve, rookie seventh-round pick Isiah Pacheco has stepped up into the starting role and made the most of his opportunities. However, with Melvin Gordon now on the Chiefs, the running back room could see a major shakeup moving forward.

How Will the Kansas City Chiefs Use Their Running Backs?

The Starter: Isiah Pacheco

Even with Melvin Gordon in town, Isiah Pacheco deserves to be the unquestioned starter moving forward, at least until Edwards-Helaire returns to the field. The rookie has performed admirably during his time on the field, averaging 4.7 yards per carry on the season while recording a respectable 61.8 PFF grade. He’s proven that he can handle a high workload, as he has averaged 18 touches per game in the past three weeks and has still been efficient with the increased opportunity.

Nobody is saying that Pacheco is the second-coming of Barry Sanders, but he doesn’t need to be. The Chiefs have the most dangerous passing offense in the league, and when Patrick Mahomes is your quarterback, you should be trying to throw the ball as much as possible. The running game just needs to be effective when called upon, and Pacheco is good enough to fill that role.

The Pass Catcher: Jerick McKinnon/Melvin Gordon

Of course, even the best running backs can’t do it alone, and somebody else will have to step up on passing downs. Pacheco has only recorded four receptions on the year, and has yet to eclipse 17 receiving yards in a single game. It’s clear that the Chiefs don’t feel comfortable utilizing him in the passing game, which is a shame considering just how effective running back targets can be in Andy Reid’s scheme.

In normal circumstances, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon would battle for this role. However, Edwards-Helaire is currently on the injured reserve and will not suit up at any point in the near future. McKinnon, meanwhile, is battling a hamstring injury and might not be ready to play in Week 13. The veteran running back missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, although he did return to the field on Friday.

If McKinnon can play without limitation, then he will see most of the running back targets. However, if he can’t play, or if he’s on a snap count, then Melvin Gordon could earn some work. The former Denver Bronco is currently on the practice squad, but he could easily be a game-day promotion. Gordon is nowhere near the player he used to be, but the running back can still make plays out of the backfield, and his football intelligence should allow him to quickly step into the offense for specific packages.

Still Here: Ronald Jones

Even with Kansas City’s running back carousel continuing to spin, there is no reason to expect Ronald Jones to get on the ride any time soon. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer has been one of the most disappointing free agent signings of the season, as he has unable to even earn a backup spot on this team. It’s clear that the coaching staff prefers Pacheco as a runner, and Jones is one of the worst receiving backs in the game. Barring a long string of injuries, it’s hard to imagine a world where Jones sees the field with any regularity.