Injuries force changes on Chiefs special teams for playoffs

Injuries force changes on Chiefs special teams for playoffs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sunday’s victory over the Denver Broncos in the season finale proved costly for Kansas City’s special teams with coordinator Dave Toub searching for replacements with the team’s top two kick returners gone for the season.

“We’ve got a number of guys who can do it,” Toub said. “(Demarcus Robinson) can do it, (Charcandrick West) can do it. We have options.”

Tyreek Hill also remains an option, Toub said. But the team continues to shy away from risking one of their most critical offensive pieces in the dangerous kick return roll.

“Punt returns you have so much more control when you have the ball in your hands,” Toub recently explained. “You can run out of bounds, you can fair catch. Kick returns, you catch it, you’re going to get hit eventually. That’s the difference.”

Toub maintained during the regular season that reward of utilizing Hill on kick returns simply doesn’t merit the risk. In the playoffs, however, head coach Andy Reid may relent.

“There may be a situation, a special situation where Andy says, hey, let’s get our A-team in there with and we go with Tyreek,” Toub said. “But it’s going to be a long shot if that happens.”

Toub said experience stands as premium during the playoffs. That favors players such as Robinson and West over rookies including Jehu Chesson and Leon McQuay, both of whom returned kicks on Sunday.

“We’re going to practice hard with all the guys that we have knowing that we still have Tyreek if we need it,” Toub said.

The Chiefs also re-signed veteran running back C.J. Spiller, who has kick return experience. But the Chiefs view Spiller as insurance for Kareem Hunt and West in the backfield and not as a special teams performer.

Losing wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas with a broken tibia and running back Akeem Hunt to a broken ankle dealt a blow to the team’s kick return depth chart. But those injuries reverberate through all phases of special teams. Those injuries costs the team its No. 2 punt returner and two of its top gunners.

The club promoted wide receiver Marcus Kemp from the practice squad, and Toub plans to plunge the rookie into key roles on special teams units. Expect Kemp to plan a role as gunner as well as on both kickoff and kick return teams.

“Anything I can do to help obviously is what I want to do,” Kemp said. “I know I’m going to have a big role on special teams and it’s something I take pride in, being good on that side because that can take me far in this league.”

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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