Chiefs RB Isiah Pacheco should see an expanded role in the passing game in 2023

Kansas City Chiefs RB Isiah Pacheco is coming off an impressive rookie season, totaling 830 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 170 attempts.

The 23-year-old running back is also coming off a season where he played through multiple injuries. Pacheco played through a broken hand and torn labrum for a portion of the 2022 season. This offseason, Pacheco underwent procedures for both injuries sustained during last season.

We have yet to see Pacheco participate in offseason programs, but the expectation is that he will be available for training camp.

“He’s making progress,” Chiefs HC Andy Reid said. “We’ll just see how he does with it.”

While it is obvious that Pacheco should continue to see plenty of work in 2023, there is one area of his game that should see an uptick. That is pass-catching duties and third-down snaps.

Entering the 2023 NFL draft, the expectation was that the Chiefs would select a running back in the middle rounds of the draft. Especially the fact that Pacheco was a seventh-round pick, and running backs, much less late-round backs, have little security in the NFL nowadays. Not only did the Chiefs not draft a running back, but they also declined Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s fifth-year option. Kansas City did re-sign Jerick McKinnon, but the lack of additions to the running back room shows how much confidence the Chiefs have in Pacheco.

McKinnon has been the primary third-down running back for the Chiefs, but it’s not like Pacheco is incapable of catching passes out of the backfield. He simply wasn’t given the opportunity to do that role much as a rookie. In 17 regular season games, Pacheco caught 13-of-14 targets and dropped zero passes. In the postseason, Pacheco caught six-of-seven targets, including five catches for 59 yards in the AFC Championship Game.

These numbers show that the second-year running back is more than capable of catching passes out of the backfield. Another key factor in getting more third-down snaps as a running back is pass protection, which is something Pacheco struggled with early on last season. Pacheco’s pass protection improved during the season, and he was at his best during the end of the regular season and postseason.

According to PFF, in the final five combined regular season and postseason games, Pacheco received pass-blocking grades of 73.4, 78.3, 73.4, 76.7, and 73.4. With another offseason under his belt, he should have a greater understanding for the blocking scheme and responsibilities required to improve in pass protection.

Pacheco’s 2022 receiving work may look lackluster looking in the box score, but the only thing he was lacking was a consistent opportunity. There were no major changes made to the Chiefs’ running back room from last season. With Edwards-Helaire’s spot on the roster not guaranteed and McKinnon being 31 years old, expect Pacheco to have more snaps on third down this season.

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Story originally appeared on Chiefs Wire