If the Chiefs’ running back depth remains a gray area on the eve of cuts, Cyrus Gray did everything he could to make a final impression.
On a night of opportunities for the reserves, Gray stood out, collecting 72 rushing yards on 13 carries in the Chiefs’ 30-8 victory over Packers.
Now comes the tough part, waiting for the decisions that will reduce the roster from 75 to a final 53 by Saturday.
Gray figures to be battling Shaun Draughn for the third running back spot behind Jamaal Charles, who along with the other starters didn’t play Thursday, and Knile Davis. Davis, a promising rookie who has flashed power and return skills, was the Chiefs’ third-round choice.
“It’s tough, man,” Gray said. “I know this is my job, this is what I do. But here in the NFL, it’s a production business, and you have to produce. I just try to do what I need to do to make this team and be part of something special.”
Gray and the offense did most of its damage in the second half. Quarterback Tyler Bray threw two of his three touchdown passes after halftime, when Gray picked up 50 yards on 10 carries.
He turned the corner on an 18-yard gain and added a nine-yard run on the next snap that set up Bray’s final touchdown pass.
The 72 yards were the most by a Chiefs back in a game in the preseason.
But the runs didn’t satisfy Gray as much as other aspects of his game.
“I probably would have to say on one of (Bray’s) touchdowns I picked up a good block,” Gray said. “So that’s probably the highlight of the game for me.”
Draughn picked up 18 yards on four attempts on Thursday.
“I went through camp controlling what I can control,” Draughn said. “Let the chips fall where they may.”
Gray, a sixth-round selection in 2012 from Texas A&M, appeared in 10 games and had seven rushing attempts for 44 yards last last season. He went a season-best 15 on his first carry, at San Diego. He also caught two passes for 18 yards.
At Texas A&M, Gray turned in superb senior and junior seasons and finished his career with 3,298 rushing yards, averaging more five yards per carry in his final two seasons and 30 touchdowns. He also caught 65 passes.
The Aggies had their best season in 2010, Gray’s junior season. He split time early, but got the bulk of the carries in the season’s second half and averaged 134 yards over Texas A&M’s last seven games, including a 100-yard effort against LSU in a Cotton Bowl loss.
That season, Gray became the first Aggie to top 1,000 rushing yards in a season since 2003. He also returned kicks and during his career was named Big 12 offensive and special teams player of the week.
Gray missed by one year the Aggies’ wild ride last season, led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, but he thinks he greatly benefited from his coach, Mike Sherman, who was fired after Gray finished in college.
“The big thing for me is I ran the same offense in college,” Gray said. “So I’m very familiar with it, and it’s a great offense.”