KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The first two official touches of his professional career came in Week 5 against the San Francisco 49ers, and Chiefs rookie running back/wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas didn’t disappoint.
The explosive Thomas totaled 45 yards, with 28 coming on a punt return and the other 17 yards resulting in a touchdown catch out of the backfield.
Indeed, Thomas proved worth the wait after missing the first four regular-season games with a hamstring injury.
“It was exciting to see him,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Tuesday. “He handled it really well, did a good job catching the ball and obviously the two returns were very good. So we’re excited about him moving forward.”
The Chiefs drafted the 5-9, 174-pound Thomas in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft with expectations he’d produce on special teams and on offense like he did Sunday.
Thomas’ ability to perform at different positions has offensive coordinator Doug Pederson looking forward to utilizing a weapon the rest of the season.
“He’s got a lot,” Pederson said Tuesday of Thomas’ versatility. “And that fact that he can run the ball from the backfield, run routes from the backfield, we can line him up as a receiver.”
Pederson even went so far as to compare Thomas’ flexibility to an All-Pro running back on the Chiefs’ roster.
“He’s much like a Jamaal Charles that way,” Pederson said, “and someone that we’ve just got to keep bringing along in slow doses and keep feeding him two, three, four, five plays a game and keep him in the mix.”
The Chiefs won’t shy from getting creative in order to use Thomas on offense, and Thomas shared the backfield with Charles on the 17-yard touchdown catch.
Of course, the offense will continue to run through Charles.
Thomas’ touches on offense aren’t likely to arrive in bunches considering he’s behind Charles and primary backup running back Knile Davis.
Still, Thomas will certainly command the punt returner duties – perhaps even in spot duty as a kickoff returner – as long as he’s healthy.
And what Thomas displayed as a punt returner in Week 5 impressed.
“He showed good poise that he can be able to make the catch,” Toub said, “and then obviously he set up the first return, there was a right return, but it started left and just his speed alone makes guys really adjust to it. They jumped out to the field and then it opened up to the boundary for him. He’s got some natural instincts that you like to see.”