There is a feeling among Kansas CIty Chiefs fans that the 2013 version of the team could be special and for those good vibes to be realized, the team will need contributions in all three phases of the game.
Especially special teams.
The Chiefs haven’t been bad on special teams in recent years but they haven’t been great either. Punter Dustin Colquitt just got elected to his first Pro Bowl in 2012 and kicker and former “Mr. Irrelevant” in the NFL Draft, Ryan Succop, as been a solid, if not unspectacular, addition to the team.
But the Chiefs have struggled to make big plays on special teams. Blocked punts and kicks have been a rarity and no Chiefs return man has taken the ball back for a score since then rookie Dexter McCluster returned a punt against the San Diego Chargers in the 2010 season opener.
The Chiefs brought in a new regime with new GM John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid this offseason. One of Reid’s first moves was to hire former Chicago Bears special teams guru, Dave Toub. Toub is considered by many to be the top special teams coach in the NFL, a fact not lost on Colquitt.
“Dave came in here with a lot of good things that happened in Chicago,” said Colquitt. “We’re hoping he brings that here. He was able to do a lot of things, obviously, when he had Devin Hester. There’s a lot of key things that you have to get. You have to have guys getting blocks, hustling, not holding, and that’s what he brought. That’s what he’s doing here. We can’t have two or three bad plays. We don’t have any plays that we can give up. We need to be good on every play, and that’s what he brings. Everybody knows that there is a lot expected on every play. We’re lucky to get him and Kevin. Those guys do a great job, and we’re looking forward to working with them.”
It is hard to imagine Toub helping Colquitt to get much better than he already is but the punter says he does think he can improve his game.
“More inside the 20,” said Colquitt. “I have to get that number up there in the mid-40s. I showed that I could do it last year and I need to do it again this year. That’s one thing that we’ve had a lot of fun watching over on the sidelines is the defense fly around. We have a lot of Pro Bowlers on that side of the ball. I have to set them up and be there for Succop. He’s capable of doing a lot of good things like he has the last four. We have to make these next four really good for him as well.”
One way Toub can really give the Chiefs’ special teams a boost is to find a kicker that can take the ball to the house. That person just might be rookie, Knile Davis.
Davis, who only returned kicks in practice while in college, is working to adjust to the way pro teams field kicks.
“The hardest part to me, because in college, you’re allowed to catch it on your back leg and judge it and just catch it and field it,” said Davis. “But in the league, they want you to catch it on the run, so it’s a little harder because you’ve got to judge it just right or it’ll be a big mistake. It’s probably the only little adjustment that I had to make.”
Despite the challenges, Davis knows how important it is to for players trying to make NFL rosters to be able to contribute on special teams.
“I know the NFL is big on special teams because it’s a short roster – 53-man roster – so you need guys to participate and compete hard on special teams,” said Davis. “So I knew there was a chance that I’d be doing special teams, and I am. I’m doing a lot, I’m doing kickoff return, punt return, kickoff, I’m doing pretty much all of them except field goal. So I knew it was a possibility that I’d be on some kind of special teams.”
But Davis plans to do more than just return kicks. The former Arkansas Razorback hops to earn the primary backup spot to superstar RB, Jamaal Charles. Davis says he is already learning from Charles’ work ethic.
“The number one thing is his work ethic, he works hard,” said Davi. “And he’s smart. He’s been in the league six years now, so he knows the ins and the outs of the NFL on and off the field. He’s been helping me on and off the field just with different little things. I’ve learned a lot and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn from him.”