The Chiefs’ backfield will be shorthanded through the remainder of the regular season. The team announced on Sunday that running back Jerick McKinnon has been placed on injured reserve.
Players moved to IR are forced to miss at least four weeks, meaning McKinnon will be sidelined for Kansas City’s three remaining contests in the regular season. The Chiefs will need to progress to at least the divisional round of the playoffs for the 31-year-old to be eligible to return. That could entail a win in the wild-card round with him out of the lineup, though the defending champions are still in play for the AFC’s No. 1 seed and a first-round bye.
McKinnon missed practice all week due to a groin injury, and he was ruled out today for the team’s Christmas Day contest against the Raiders. Given the subsequent move to IR, though, Kansas City will need to rely more heavily on starter Isiah Pacheco and former first-rounder Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Losing McKinnon will likely not represent the loss it would have in previous seasons, however.
The Georgia Southern alum has been much less involved in the run game compared to last season, receiving no more than four carries in a game this season. McKinnon’s two most productive games on the ground in 2023 came in the team’s two most recent contests, with only 19 and 11 rushing yards. The former third-rounder has remained a consistent option in the passing game, though, totaling 192 yards and four touchdowns on 25 receptions.
In spite of a career-low 2.9 yards per carry average, McKinnon’s role will thus need replacing in large part by Pacheco and Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs have filled McKinnon’s roster spot with another option in the backfield, though, signing La’Mical Perine from the practice squad. The latter has made just two appearances in his debut Chiefs campaign, receiving a single carry. Perine’s usage will likely be restricted to special teams duty.
Kansas City currently has six IR activations remaining, although one of those will be needed for wideout Mecole Hardman, who was designated for return earlier this week. McKinnon will look to return to health in time for the postseason after playing a signficant role in the Chiefs’ title run last year.