RSP writer Matt Waldman shares his expectations for Le’Veon Bell and Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the Kansas City offense.
Does the Le’Veon Bell signing mean that Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a bad prospect or is Bell merely a situational contributor? As is often the case with our society nursed on polarizing thoughts, the answer is somewhere in between.
Edwards-Helaire struggled to read the keys in green zone situations during the Chiefs opener and since then has displayed a lack of true tackle-breaking power that’s indicative of a traditional feature back. My video analysis from last month shows the talents and the shortcomings of the rookie.
Edwards-Helaire is a capable talent with lead back skills and feature-back potential in this offense. The signing of Bell is not a trashing of Edwards-Helaire’s future. In fact, it may be an enhancement to his present.
Bell fills in the minor but important gaps that exist in Edwards-Helaire’s game. Bell will earn green zone touches between the tackles, which should force opponents to respect the run in this vital range of the field, preventing a scenario that was developing where opponents didn’t respect the run. This would make the passing game harder to execute.
This doesn’t mean Edwards-Helaire will no longer earn work in the red zone. He’s a receiving asset who the Chiefs can now split from the formation or leak from the backfield while Bell’s presence in two-back sets will force opponents to still honor the run between the tackles.
This could lead to an increase in red zone production from Edwards-Helaire, especially as a receiver. Expect to see both backs on the field in the red zone and overall, a split of red zone touches.
Bell should open up this offense, and Edwards-Helaire’s use in the passing game in other areas. Bell can pass protect whereas and Edwards-Helaire struggles in this area.
Bell will need 2-4 weeks to master all the assignments and calls, but he will be used in the backfield to block and run patterns from there.
This what the Chiefs miss right now. They have to send Edwards-Helaire on obvious patterns and can’t achieve unpredictability with him in the backfield on passing downs because teams know he can’t block.
That limits the playbook’s use of draws, shovels, angle routes, and delayed release in the middle of the field, because if they had to change the assignments pre-snap and audible to an RB-blocking assignment, they don’t want Edwards-Helaire charged with accessory to assault.
This actually may free up Edwards-Helaire more as a receiver if the Chiefs use a dual backfield. They can leave Bell in to block and if the assignments are handled, release in to the middle of the field of flat opposite Edwards-Helaire, who will also serve as the movable piece that helps Mahomes confirm coverage and create mismatches.
Could Bell take over this backfield? Absolutely, if the need arises. But there is no need. Edwards-Helaire is an asset even if he’s not yet a complete back, or may never be, if measuring him to the standard of tackle-breaking I mentioned in the video above.
Bell gives the Chiefs a strong redundancy plan if Edwards-Helaire gets hurt and a complementary contributor where Edwards-Helaire struggles. He gives Mahomes more protection with Kelechi Osemele our while enhancing pre-snap flexibility for the entire offense, Edwards-Helaire included. At best for Bell, this backfield could develop into a 50/50 split of Edwards-Helaire stays healthy. I am banking on a 65-35 share in favor of Edwards-Helaire.
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