Is De’Anthony Thomas the next Devin Hester? According to Kansas City Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub, Thomas has the tools to be great.
“His burst, his ability to make the first person miss, he’s got that,” Toub said. “Same thing Devin Hester had.”
Thomas has been working a lot with the special teams units, something that isn’t much of a surprise. It is expected he will be the second string kick returner behind Knile Davis and be the go-to punt returner. Or at least that is the plan.
“There might be a situation we might have Knile [Davis] and him in the game at the same time and have a special return designed specifically for De’Anthony. He can do a lot of different things that Knile can’t. Knile’s more power, speed, straight ahead. Kind of fits our scheme mainly, but you can do a lot of other things with De’Anthony.”
Kansas City has a lot special teams production to replace after losing all-Pro punt returner Dexter McCluster and kick returner Quintin Demps. Both returners were scoring threats and were among the league leaders in return average. Demps had a +7.1 PFF grade as a kick returner last season, second only to Cordarrelle Patterson, and McCluster finished second in PFF’s punt return grade to Golden Tate. Losing two of the best returners in the game from last season could prove an issue, but there appears to be a lot of confidence in what Davis and Thomas can provide.
We saw flashes of what Davis could do last season when he returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos, but he is still very raw as a returner. Davis, in fact, had never returned a kick in an actual game until last season. The game experience should prove useful.
“He got valuable experience, game experience, last year. He got better and more confident as the year went on. He finished the year at a high level. We expect him to take it from that level. Going forward he’s going to get even better. He’s ready to roll; he can’t wait to get in the game.”
Thomas is a proven game-changer in the return game based on what he did in college. While at Oregon Thomas returned five total kicks for touchdowns in his career, averaging 25.8 yards per kick return and a stunning 17.1 yards per punt return. Those five touchdowns combined with his 41 rushing and receiving touchdowns helps point to Thomas’ explosiveness and ability to create big plays.
Should Thomas and Davis can make some technical improvements during camp, Kansas City may end up being more explosive on special teams than they were a year ago. And that is an exciting prospect.