When special teams coach Dave Toub was hired back in January, he instantly became one of the most valuable members of Andy Reid’s coaching staff. Toub’s days in Chicago cemented him as one of the very best at what he does in the league. The hope was that his presence would help turn things around for the Kansas City Chiefs. Halfway through the preseason, their special teams has returns of 52, 55, 79, and 104 yards (one of the four went for a touchdown last Friday night in Arrowhead Stadium). Special teams has arguably been the most effective and consistent phase of this football team thus far.
It’s still early, but the preseason success for the Chiefs is quite the departure from the returns famine of the recent past. Devon Wylie’s 52-yard punt return is the longest return, of any kind, since Dexter McCluster’s 94-yard punt return for a touchdown in the 2010 season opener with the San Diego Chargers. To have had four returns of at least 52 yards just during the month of August says something significant about the progress they’ve made under Toub.
Quintin Demps believes this is a special group and I think he’s right. His 104-yard return for a touchdown was part of a 265-yard day for the return teams on Friday night. In just two games, the Chiefs have four players with a return of at least 52 yards. That’s a testament to Toub’s scheming. The same system previously produced four Pro Bowl appearances between Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. Fortunately for Chiefs Kingdom, it doesn’t end there.
Dave Toub is a well-rounded special teams coordinator. He’s partially responsible for another six trips to Honolulu for special teams coverage, kicking, and long-snapping (between Brendon Ayanbadejo, Corey Graham, David Akers, Robbie Gould, and Chad Lewis). If you’re scoring at home, Toub’s special teams have produced ten Pro Bowlers since the 2001 season. He’s as decorated a special teams coach as you’ll find in the NFL.
There’ve been other small victories for Kansas City’s special teams this offseason. Kicker Ryan Succop is perfect through four attempts and punter Dustin Colquitt helped pin San Francisco inside their 20-yard line four times on Friday. Toub didn’t come alone. He brought assistant special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea with him from Chicago. O’Dea did a masterful job with Bears kicker Robbie Gould in 2011. Gould set new franchise records in two categories under his tutelage (six field goals made from 50 yards or more and longest field goad in franchise history).
Head coach Andy Reid is heaping high praise on both Toub and O’Dea:
They are putting guys in the right position to make plays and the guys are making the plays. They’ve got good schemes. Dave is a good teacher, a great teacher. He keeps it where the guys can play fast and efficient. You need to know your players and make sure you’re putting them in situations where they can be successful.
If this continues into the regular season, the Chiefs could steal a game or two on the play of their special teams units. Remember the 2003 Chiefs team that began the year with 9 straight wins? Dante Hall and the return game was a big part of their success. Hall scored on a special teams return in four of those games (four consecutive games). Getting that kind of lift from your return teams can swing the momentum of a game. Alex Smith and the Chiefs’ offense will also be beneficiaries of a productive return group. As a team that will need time to get comfortable with the new offensive system, they could definitely benefit from having a short field here and there.
Chiefs Kingdom should be excited about the special teams possibilities under Dave Toub. The progress Kansas City has made hasn’t been tied to any one player. The Chiefs have experimented with personnel in the return game and still haven’t missed a beat. This unit could well become one of the elites in the NFL. Hopefully they’ll continue to play well through the final two games of the preseason.
What say you, Chiefs fans? Will special teams be vital to having success in 2013?
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Until next time, Addicts!