Chiefs' return teams showing signs of life

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- No NFL team has waited longer for a punt or kick return touchdown than the Kansas City Chiefs, who last managed one in September 2010.
But they are getting closer.
In their preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, the Chiefs did not score on a return. But under new special teams coach Dave Toub, they had the longest returns the Chiefs have seen in some time, including preseason games:
--Dexter McCluster had a 55-yard punt return in the first quarter that helped set up an early field goal for the Chiefs. It was the team's longest punt return since his 94-yarder for a touchdown on September 13, 2010, against the San Diego Chargers. And, yes, that was a rookie mistake, returning a punt from his own 6-yard line.
--Rookie running back Knile Davis returned a kickoff 79 yards late in the third quarter. It's the longest kick return in any game -- pre, regular and postseason -- since running back Jamaal Charles returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown on November 22, 2009, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There is now hope with the Chiefs that they can get some help from the return game.
"I was really happy with the way the guys responded," said Toub, who joined Andy Reid's staff after spending seasons handling the special teams with the Chicago Bears. "We have high expectations for this group and they work their butts off. It's good to see guys work so hard and reap rewards like they did in the game."
In the 2010 NFL draft, then-general manager Scott Pioli used a pair of second-round draft choices to select McCluster and cornerback Javier Arenas. Both were on the small side, but they were known for their quickness and their ability on returns; Arenas had set several NCAA records while at Alabama.
Toub feels McCluster is a natural punt returner because of his quickness in a compact area.
"He can make the first man miss," said Toub, who had record-setting punt returner Devin Hester with the Bears. "As a punt returner in the NFL, you're going to have to make someone miss and he's good at that."
In his three-year NFL career, McCluster has had three different special teams coaches, and he has become a big fan of Toub and the way he handles the kicking game.
"He knows that we can be game changers; special teams can win games," McCluster said. "I think that his focus and determination to get us better and bring the best out of us is going to be key to our success. He's a guy that really, really, really loves special teams."
Davis did not return kickoffs during his college career at the University of Arkansas, but Reid and Toub see him in that role for the Chiefs. He's not quite there yet.
"You have to be able to catch all the balls clean," Toub said. "He has to be clean there. He's catching a lot of balls off the jugs machine and before practice. He has to get some confidence, and we have to have confidence in him. He's still a work in progress."
That brings free safety Quintin Demps and wide receiver Devon Wylie into the picture as kick returners. McCluster will not be a candidate.
"Punt returner, that's a full-time job," Toub said. "We want him focused on that."
The Chiefs are focused on breaking their return drought.
"We sit back and watch the film and see the spark that we can be for this team; I think everyone is going to want to go out there and do it week in and week out," McCluster said.

--Team correspondents for The Sports Xchange contributed material for this story.

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