Yes, this is an entire article dedicated to the red-headed stepchild of football. Rarely will this third phase of the game affect your fantasy score, and it is unlikely you will mention to your buddy that “insert team here is great on special teams.” To most, it’s the unconscious part of football that once in a blue moon provides a spectacular play. For the Kansas City Chiefs, it’ll serve as a difference maker once more in 2016.
Since Andy Reid’s arrival in 2013, the Chiefs have greatly improved winning the field position battle. It is perhaps one of the biggest reasons they have had so much success the past three years. Luckily for Kansas City, they have one of the finest special teams coordinators in the NFL. Best known for his nine years in Chicago with Devin Hester, ST coach Dave Toub has turned the Chiefs into a consistent powerhouse over the last few seasons.
When it comes to pinning opponents inside their own 20 yard line, not many do it better than the 12-year veteran Dustin Colquitt. The Chiefs ranked third last year with 37 punts landing inside their opponents 20-yard line, a mark that falls short of Colquitt’s record of 45. That mark of 45 set in 2012 is good for the second most all-time in the NFL.
So, while Dustin isn’t getting any younger, his performance quietly remains among the best the league has to offer. Colquitt and the punt unit have consistently put offenses in danger zones, and that must continue when September rolls around. Poor starting field position for the opposition means more opportunities for the defense and better starting field position for the offense. Simple as that.
Although the numbers in the return game weren’t as positive in 2015, Kansas City still proved to have the personnel and mentality to be a threat in that department. It seems no matter who is receiving a punt or kick for the Chiefs, the mindset is to be aggressive.
KC loves to go ahead and return kicks deep out of the end zone to try and make something happen. The same goes when KC is fielding punts; often De’Anthony Thomas tries to get a little too cute out there. Speaking of DAT, the playmakers Kansas City has at their disposal is what can make their return units solid once more.
The hot name out of One Arrowhead Drive right now is rookie Tyreek Hill, who has shown speed that apparently has just about everyone’s attention. It is likely we will see this kid returning something, depending on what happens with the statuses of Knile Davis, DAT, and Frankie Hammond.
The good news is we have seen all these guys do some nice things with the ball in their hands, so either way KC will have some talented options in the return game. With an offense that usually needs that occasional jolt, a dynamic return game will prove valuable as in years past.
In the kicking game, Cairo Santos took a big step forward a season ago. He went 30 for 37 overall (81.1%) and hit seven field goals in a loss to Cincinnati, tying for second most ever in a NFL game. Santos doesn’t have the biggest leg, but in two years he has proved he is consistently accurate within 50 yards.
The Brazilian Boot also had 14 more touchbacks in 2015 than in his rookie season. The Chiefs were smart to cut ties with Ryan Succop and move on to a cheaper option in Santos. He has been just as effective and only can improve from this point out.
Overall, the Chiefs should be back among the best when it comes to special teams this fall. Football has three phases, and it is often the third one that is forgotten. Yet, this third phase is one that has worked in Kansas City’s favor recently and hopefully continues to do so. Quietly, it has been the reason the Chiefs have found new life in recent years. In a special teams fashion, quiet is quite alright.