Let’s talk special teams.
Normally, special teams is the part of the game that receives the least attention from the average fan, but believe you me, as a coach, it’s the most important unit to focus on.
Special teams will be especially important for the Chiefs in 2013, as the team looks to bounce back from a dismal season last year. The new coach, new quarterback and aggressive defense will help a lot, but as with any rebuilding process, you have to go back to the fundamentals.
Nothing is more fundamental than special teams. It isn’t flashy and it often time goes unnoticed, and outside of the occasional game-winning field goal it rarely gets press.
That said, winning and losing often times comes down to special teams play.
In 2013, Kansas City will be looking to improve in the win-loss column, and that means special teams will have to be a focus.
The good news is, new special teams coordinator David Toub has a love for the unit, according to quotes from Dexter McCluster, in recent press release:
“The thing with him is, he is a guy that really, really, really loves special teams. He knows that if he can get 11 guys on the kickoff return, punt return or whatever it may be to buy in, he knows that we can be game changers. Special teams can win games. I think that his focus and determination to get us better and bring the best out of us is going to be key this year to our success.”
McCluster went on to say that the unit is working hard and understands how important it is, which is huge:
We work hard on special teams. It’s just not a period off during practices. It may be one of the most important periods of the practices. I think now when we sit back and watch the film and see the spark plug that we can be for this team, I think everyone is going to want to go out there and do it week-in and week-out.”
It could be argued that field position is what wins games, and that’s on both sides of the ball.
Even the best offense will have trouble scoring if it’s constantly getting the ball on its own 13, and a defense with a short field to cover is a strained defense.
For as good as Alex Smith and the first unit looked the other night, they’ll still need the return teams to get them good field position on a consistent basis throughout the season. Nothing instills more confidence in an offense than a short field and a quick score. The key to that is special teams.
Conversely, imagine Bob Sutton’s aggressive defense putting pressure on an offensive backed up near its own end zone. Now, imagine that scene within the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium.
The focal point may be the offense and defense here, but it all starts and ends with special teams.
That makes the kick returners integral, whomever ends up getting the gig, and it especially means that McCluster needs to play a huge role.
The more Chiefs’ fans see McCluster returning punts, the better the defense is doing, and the better McCluster is at picking up yards, the better the offense will be.
If special teams is the X-Factor for the Chiefs in 2013, than McCluster is the X-factor’s X-Factor.
That’s great for the Chiefs though, because according to quotes from Toub, McCluster is good at what he does:
That’s why he’s our punt returner. He can make the first man miss, and he did that in the game. We had a guy down there, and he made them miss and it was out the gate. We had a nice wall set up after that. As a punt returner in the NFL, you’re going to have to make someone miss, and he’s good at that.”
The Kansas City Chiefs have a monumental challenge in front of them. Friday night was a good start, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s a lot of work that goes into turning a NFL team around. The Chiefs have got their coach in Andy Reid, and Smith looks to be the guy at quarterback. The defense undoubtedly features some game-changers.
There’s a good amount of hype surrounding this team because of the changes, but in the end, it’s going to come down to executing on the field once the season kicks off.
The offense will have to click and the defense will need to be aggressive, but it’s special teams that will have to be the catalyst for Kansas City in 2013.
Note: Quotes according to Chiefs Communications