La’Mical Perine wasn’t last year’s starting running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. He wasn’t a first-round Draft selection or early training camp darling.
Those are the calling cards of other backs on the Chiefs’ current roster.
So what identity has Perine developed during the preseason? He’s turned in the best overall performance of the entire position group, capped by Saturday’s effort in the Chiefs’ 33-32 home victory over the Cleveland Browns to conclude the NFL preseason.
Perine finished Saturday’s game with 44 receiving yards and a touchdown, as well as 32 rushing yards. He continued to make his case for inclusion on the 53-man roster. That roster will be announced Tuesday.
Perine was the Chiefs’ rushing leader in the preseason with 95 yards and 6.1 yards per carry.
“I liked what I saw,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He did a nice job, played really well. Good balance, and we know he can catch well. He seemed to see everything pretty clearly today.”
The Chiefs’ depth chart at running back starts with Isiah Pacheco, last year’s starter and breakthrough rookie who has been recovering from offseason surgery. Pacheco saw his first preseason action on Saturday.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs’ 2020 first-round selection, started all three preseason games and picked up 14 yards in eight attempts. Veteran Jerick McKinnon played well in his few preseason snaps.
Deneric Prince, an undrafted rookie who turned heads early in camp, led the Chiefs Saturday with 45 rushing yards but didn’t capitalize on his early momentum.
If the Chiefs keep four running backs, Perine seems like a good call. He has NFL experience as a fourth-round pick of the New York Jets in 2020 who played in 14 games in two seasons. Injuries shortened his stay there. He’s been with the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins since then, and signed with the Chiefs in January.
Among his seven touches Saturday were two of the game’s most dynamic plays, a 30-yard run, the longest by a Chiefs back this preseason, and a 20-yard touchdown reception.
The second-quarter touchdown started with a chip-block before Perine found himself free in the flat and caught Blaine Gabbert’s attention. Perine shook two tackles before reaching the end zone.
“Blaine shot me in the flat and I made two people miss,” Perine said. “Then a routine finish like we do in practice. It was a great feeling.”
Furthermore, on the long run, Perine went where Chiefs running backs have tended not to go ... in a different direction. When no hole appeared at the line, Perine bounced outside.
“Guys were overplaying and I used my God-given talent to get outside,” Perine said.
One reason for Saturday’s success, perhaps? Perine said he didn’t spend a minute thinking about his future.
“You have to block that out, or it could be in your head the whole game,” he said. “Then you’re not realizing that you have to make plays.”
Perine did, and he believes there’s a place for him when all NFL teams reveal their 53-man rosters Tuesday.
“I put good tape out there,” Perine said. “I’m hoping to be here, but like they say, you’re working for all 32 teams.”