Two of the best Chiefs of all time are Jamaal Charles and Derrick Johnson. Charles finished his career with the highest yards per carry in NFL history at 5.4 yards and Derrick Johnson is the all-time leader in tackles in Chiefs history. Rookies Clyde Edwards-Helaire, CEH, and Willie Gay Jr. have a chance to be the best weapons the Chiefs have had since these potential Hall-of-Famers.
When you ask fans if they could have any player from the past to be on the current Chiefs team, Charles’ name comes up a lot. He and CEH have different skillsets, but they are both highly effective.
Charles was speed, speed, and more speed. He was able to make one cut, make a guy miss, and was a long touchdown waiting to happen. He was always a great pass catcher. One of the plays that always sticks out in my mind is the one-handed catch he had on a screen against the Raiders that he ended up taking to the house. CEH is also an incredible pass catcher.
In his last year at LSU, CEH had 55 receptions for 453 yards and a touchdown. Last year Damien Williams had 37 targets in just 11 games. Do you see where I am going here? CEH is going to be targeted a lot and he has the perfect skill set for it. Andy Reid said he was “better than Brian Westbrook.”
While in Philadelphia, Westbrook had years where he had over 100 receptions – not targets, receptions! Now, the Chiefs have a plethora of pass catchers, so he will not have 100 catches. However, he is going to be matched up a lot 1 on 1 with linebackers and he is going to eat them up.
Also, Andy Reid is still the best coach in the NFL at calling screens. As a pass-catching RB, CEH is in the perfect situation to thrive. CEH isn’t just a pass-catcher though.
In addition to being an incredible pass catcher, CEH also thrived between the tackles at LSU. He finished his last year with over 1400 yards and 6.6 per carry. With the Chiefs spread out, wide-open offense that has Patrick Mahomes under center, there are going to be a lot of light boxes. CEH running into light boxes is a very dangerous thought. He lead the NCAA in broken tackles in 2019. Out of 214 carries, he had 70 broken tackles. He wins 1 on 1 battles consistently. You can’t take him down with the first guy.
He may not have the top-end speed that Jamaal Charles did, but his short-area quickness is elite, which most would argue is more critical for running backs in the NFL. Edwards-Helaire and the Kansas City Chiefs offense is a match made in heaven if you’re a Chiefs fan or even just a football fan.
Willie Gay Jr. also has some eye-popping skills that will give him a chance to thrive in Kansas City.
Gay Jr. is a physical specimen. He is 6’1” 243 pounds, ran a 4.46 40 yard dash, 136-inch long broad jump (longest at the combine), 39.5 inch vertical (2nd best at the combine), and 21 reps of the bench press (5th most at the combine). With all this athleticism it is no surprise that his best trait as a linebacker is his ability to cover.
According to PFF, Gay Jr. was the highest-rated cover linebacker in the draft over the last two years. This is huge for a Chiefs defense whose weakest aspect last year was coverage from the linebackers. Today’s NFL is all about defending the pass.
You are seeing passing rates higher than you’ve ever seen. Also, the Chiefs offense puts up so many points that teams are going to have to throw to catch up. This is going to give Gay Jr. the chance to make a lot of plays in the passing game. When you think about DJ, he was also great in the passing game, recording 14 interceptions in his career.
Gay Jr. is also a great blitzer. It is one of the most underrated aspects of his game. It was one of the most noticeable parts of his game when you watch his film. He is so explosive and closes so quickly, Coach Spags will certainly be dialing him up early and often.
Derrick Johnson also had great burst and closing ability. Johnson amassed 27 sacks in his career, with his best year tallying 4.5 in 2006 and 2013. I think Willie Gay Jr. could surpass that in his rookie year. His athletic ability combined with the opportunity should put him in a position to do just that.
It is always tough to compare rookies to all-time greats. Jamaal Charles and Derrick Johnson are certainly all-time greats in Kansas City and have a chance to be Hall-of-Famers. Charles has the highest yards per carry in NFL history and Johnson is 16th all-time in tackles.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Willie Gay Jr. have a chance to make instant impacts on their respective sides of the ball and be some of the best weapons Kansas City has seen since Charles and Johnson. Their athletic ability and skillsets coupled with their opportunities could lead to some eye-popping numbers for these rookies.