Former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had been heavily hyped before his NFL debut with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Reports from the Chiefs’ training camp during preseason practice hinted Helaire, the surprise last pick of the first round of this past April’s NFL Draft, was a perfect fit for the high-powered Kansas City offense.
What Edwards-Helaire did against the Houston Texans in Thursday night’s 2020 season opener, without the benefit of any preseason games as the rest of the NFL because of COVID-19 concerns, was spectacular.
With 138 yards rushing and a TD on 25 carries in a 34-20 victory, he became just the fourth player in the NFL history to top 130 rushing yards and score a touchdown in his NFL debut. Each of the previous three players either went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year or a rushing title that year.
His 138 yards were 10th most by a running back in his NFL debut, sandwiching him between Hall of Famers Earl Campbell and Marshall Faulk on that list.
Also according to Pro Football Focus, Edwards-Helaire had 106 rushing yards after contact in his NFL debut. No rookie has had more than 95 yards after contact in Week 1 since 2006.
“I’m kind of just floating,” Edwards-Helaire said a half-hour after the game. “Still feeling like I could go out there and play two more quarters. I feel at home in the Chiefs’ kingdom.
“Ultimately, I’m still going to chop wood, make corrections and move on to the next game.”
Edwards-Helaire’s 25 carries were more than any Kansas City running back had in a regular season game last season. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, last season’s Super Bowl MVP, loves his new weapon.
“He’s been doing it since the day he got here,” Mahomes said. “The offensive line did a great job of giving him holes to run through, and he hit it every single time. He’s going to keep getting better.”
The Chiefs put the ball in the hands of Edwards-Helaire late in the game to kill clock.
“I just want to get back to the huddle with the ball,” he said. “Job security is ball security. Get first downs. Stay in bounds.”
Some reaction about Edwards-Helaire debut:
Former LSU and current Chiefs cornerback Tyrann Mathieu: “I’m so impressed with the young man. Obviously, I’m a huge LSU guy, I bleed Purple and Gold. I’ve seen him stick that foot in the ground many times, I’ve seen him bounce off plenty of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State guys,”
Travis Kelce, Chiefs tight end: “He’s a tough son-of-a-buck. For how tall is, he’s got the strength of somebody my size. He runs the ball like no one I’ve ever seen at that size. It’s fun to play with him. He’s infectious to play with, when you see him out there running his tail off.
Veteran NFL writer John McLain of the Houston Chronicle: “The most impressive Kansas City player on the field was Edwards-Helaire, who must have thought he was still playing for LSU and running through SEC defenses on his way to a national championship.”
NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth, who was on the game’s broadcast crew: “This guy at LSU was phenomenal. He is just lightning quick in the open field. Of course you have to double team so many guys on this Kansas City offense. Coming out of the backfield, he’s going to get a lot of one on one opportunities. Of course, nobody in college could cover him. You see some of the quickness. You see some of that power. He’s so compactly built, people have a hard time with arm tackles bringing him to the ground. He’s going to a special guy.”
Finally, Edwards-Helaire had the best NFL debut by an LSU rookie running back ever. Here’s a list of the most notable former Tigers’ RB’s first NFL regular season action:
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City) 2020 vs. Houston – 138 yards rushing and one TD on 25 carries
Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville) 2017 vs. Houston – 100 yards rushing and one TD on 26 carries, 3 catches for 24 yards
Billy Cannon (Houston Oilers) 1960 vs. Oakland Raiders – 59 yards rushing on 12 carries, 1 catch for 3 yards
Dalton Hilliard (New Orleans) 1986 vs. Atlanta – 51 yards rushing and one TD, 2 catches for 5 yards
Garry James (Detroit Lions) 1986 vs. Minnesota – 37 yards rushing on 12 carries
Domanick Davis (Houston) 2003 vs. Miami Dolphins – 36 yards rushing on 6 carries
Joseph Addai (Indianapolis) 2006 vs. New York Giants – 26 yards rushing on 7 carries, 3 catches for 22 yards
Charles Alexander (Cincinnati) 1979 vs. Denver – 22 yards on 13 carries, 2 catches for 19 yards
Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati) 2014 vs. Atlanta – 19 yards rushing on 4 carries
Derrius Guice (Washington) 2019 vs. Philadelphia – 18 yards rushing on 10 carries, 3 catches for 20 yards
Kevin Faulk (New England) 1999 vs. New York Jets – 17 yards rushing on 10 carries, 1 reception for 8 yards
Harvey Williams (Kansas City) 1991 vs. Houston Oilers – 15 yards rushing on 3 carries
Stevan Ridley (New England) 2011 vs. Los Angeles Chargers – 9 yards rushing on 2 carries
Jacob Hester (San Diego) 2008 vs. New York Jets – 3 yards rushing on 1 carry