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Opponent Preview: Kansas City running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Do the Bills have to worry about more than just Patrick Mahomes?

The Buffalo Bills are set to take on the reigning champions led by a quarterback you might have heard named “Patrick Mahomes.” OK, fine. We’re all probably sick to death of the Mahomes coverage. The Bills will have their work cut out for them in the passing game. But what about on the ground? Let’s take a look at rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire who has vaulted into the starting role. The Kansas City Chiefs have not used a committee approach to this position with Edwards-Helaire logging 81 of the team’s 132 rushing attempts. In second place is Patrick Mahomes who we’re done talking about.


Play 1

Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t a thumper when it comes to blocking but he’s definitely willing to do it. More importantly you don’t always need a thumper. Edwards-Helaire is often used out wide as well, and this decoy turned block was certainly effective. This play isn’t here to showcase ability as much as it’s here to showcase Kansas City’s personnel usage. Buffalo needs to be on their toes. As an aside, despite this block on the move, Edwards-Helaire is not a major part of pass protection.

Play 2

Edwards-Helaire is also fourth on the team in targets with 27, only two behind Sammy Watkins (third) and eight behind Tyreek Hill (second). Some of this comes from splitting out wide, but the running back is often tasked with being the safety valve as well. From there, they rely on his shiftiness to get some extra yards.

Play 3

Now to be fair, the extreme cut and some contact did lead to Clyde Edwards-Helaire falling and this would have gone down as an open-field tackle. The fact that he made the defender fall and got a good burst after contact because of the move is the most important thing I took from the clip. The lateral agility displayed by Edwards-Helaire is impressive and a Bills team that’s struggled to make tackles this season will need to swarm or catch him at the line to shut him down.

Play 4

Physics suggest that the 207 lb Edwards-Helaire isn’t going to be moving too many piles through sheer force. And physics is right. Edwards-Helaire can get decent push because he’s good at getting low and maximizing leverage. The initial impact hits him on the side and he keeps churning. Once he’s driven into more bodies though, the play ends.

Play 5

To reiterate the last point, as soon as solid contact is made so is the tackle. But before the eventual end of the play he shows off patience in hitting the lane followed by a good burst. A hand latches onto him on the way through but he reacts incredibly quickly and wrenches it free. The ability to do that rapidly and continue moving is impressive.

Play 6

Finally a clip on how to shut him down. Solid gap integrity, reading the play right, and a solid tackle to finish it off. Easier said than done for sure, but good predictive play calling from the defensive side will likely be the deciding factor.


Summary

Kansas City has used Edwards-Helaire a lot to the edges, increasing this trend the last couple weeks. That means more runs that look like Play 6 than Play 5. The good news for the Bills is that speed can be an effective counter and their Buffalo Nickel scheme has plenty of that. Getting mauled up the middle is still on the table though.

Regardless of what the Chiefs do, Buffalo needs to have a plan for the shifty Clyde Edwards-Helaire. While schematically there’s an arguable significant advantage for the Bills, his ability to cut and evade/get through tackles could also exploit what’s been a major weakness thus far.