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Jerick McKinnon

Kansas City brings back McKinnon

Kansas City just re-signed Jerick McKinnon, and that changes the landscape of their backfield. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Ronald Jones are already on that roster, but there could be some games (perhaps many games) where McKinnon is more productive than those guys.

McKinnon is the best pass catcher of the three, I’m pretty sure. He had a 51-catch season with Minnesota, and they were able to use him effective as a pass catcher late last year. Including the playoffs, he caught 17 passes for 191 yards and 2 TDs in their final four games, and with just 3 incompletions.

I will concede that some of the overall career numbers suggest these three backs are similar as pass catchers. They’ve all caught about 72 percent of the passes thrown their way. Jones and Edwards-Helaire both average 5.5 yards per career pass play, while McKinnon is down at 5.2. But my sense is that McKinnon is better in that area. The Bucs never had much interest in using Jones on passing downs, while KC dialed back CEH’s role in the passing game last year (subbing in Darrel Williams often in the regular season). There may be trust issues in pass protection with both of those backs.

The passing game will be particularly important if Kansas City isn’t as good this year. If there are more games where the team is trailing, looking to use more of a four-minute offense – spreading the field and playing at a faster pace – that style of game (I think) will favor McKinnon over those other backs.

Despite not playing all that much, McKinnon had five games last year with at least 3 catches. Edwards-Helaire had only three such games, while Jones had none (he had only two games with even 2 receptions).

As runners, they might all have something to offer. None of them look like featured-type players. None of them under any circumstances will finish as one of the league’s top-15 rushers. They’re all smaller guys (all listed between 201 and 208 pounds). They’ve got CEH at 5-foot-8 and 205 pounds at their website, but he looks smaller. That might have been a factor in them preferring Williams (who’s no longer around) on the field in pass-protection situations. And I would think they’ll be looking to pull him in goal-line situations (based on his work with the Bucs, Jones looks like their best short-yardage running option).

Mostly with McKinnon, it’s about how he played late last year. After Edwards-Helaire sprained an ankle at Cincinnati, McKinnon opened some eyes in the Week 18 win at Denver, carrying 5 times for 24 yards and catching 3 passes for 26 yards and a touchdown. They moved him up into the starting lineup (ahead of Darrel Williams) for their three playoff games, and he played well. He carried 34 times for 150 yards, and he caught 14 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown in those games. CEH came back and played in the final two playoff games, but they had him coming in off the bench.

Edwards-Helaire was the final pick of the first round in 2020, but in hindsight, he probably should have been a third-round choice. It will be a surprise if KC at the end of this season picks up the fifth-year option on his contract. Jones a few months back signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. McKinnon’s contract is also for one year, and it’s probably also for close to the league min.

I would think all three of these backs will contribute.

—Ian Allan

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