The Chiefs had a strong kickoff coverage subunit last season thanks to a mix of hungry rookies, experienced vets, and the leadership of special teams coordinator Dave Toub.
However, Kansas City’s kickoff lineup will be a bit different in 2023 due to an influx of new talent, which means the squad’s potential is now up in the air.
Let’s take a look at some of the newest projected contributors on the Chiefs’ kickoff coverage team, and who those new contributors will be replacing.
Top 2022 Chiefs kick return contributors
These 15 players earned the most kickoff coverage snaps for the Chiefs last year (including the postseason):
FB Michael Burton
S Deon Bush
K Harrison Butker
LB Leo Chenal
LB Jack Cochrane
S Bryan Cook
TE Jody Fortson
LB Darius Harris
DB Nazeeh Johnson
WR Marcus Kemp
CB Chris Lammons
LB Elijah Lee
RB Isiah Pacheco
CB Jaylen Watson
CB Joshua Williams
Here’s the Chiefs’ 2022 kickoff coverage lineup and snap counts. Find more here.
Eight of those 15 players are not on the Chiefs’ 53-man roster to start the 2023 season: Burton, Bush, Fortson, Harris, Johnson, Kemp, Lammons and Lee.
Burton, Harris, Kemp, Lammons, and Lee moved on in free agency. Bush is currently on the Chiefs’ practice squad. Fortson and Johnson would have likely made the Chiefs 53-man roster but are both out for the season due to injuries – Fortson a shoulder injury and Johnson an ACL tear.
That’s a lot of production to replace on this crew. It’ll mainly be tough to replace the production of Burton and Bush. Those two led the team in tackles on kickoffs in 2022 – Burton finished with six while Bush had eight. It’s also worth noting that players like Chenal, Cook, Pacheco, and Watson will see increased roles on offense/defense, which means their special teams duties could be cut down.
Projected 2023 Chiefs kick return contributors
The Chiefs have plenty of options to replace production on kickoffs. Newbies who could contribute include:
My Chiefs 2023 kickoff coverage lineup projections. The position possibilities vary widely.
Others who could/should contribute are:
Conner and Edwards – who will be special teams workhorses this season – replace Bush and Cook. Cam Jones replaces the big-bodied presence that Burton left behind. Nic Jones can replace Lammons’ production. It makes sense for Rush to play on the outside given his speed.
Of course, the potential for placement varies, so don’t expect the above projections to be totally accurate. Toub will switch these guys around based on matchups, comfortability, and experience.
Looking outside the Chiefs’ 53-man roster, there’s potential for contributions from practice squad players should one or more receive a call-up. I’m looking at Bush, cornerback Ekow Boye-Doe, linebacker Cole Christiansen, tight end Matt Bushman, or receiver Cornell Powell as possible fill-ins if someone on the main roster gets injured.