KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The education of Chiefs rookie running back De’Anthony Thomas as a punt returner continues.
While the Chiefs want him to be aggressive, Thomas has been prone to bad judgment by allowing punts to hit the ground or fielding punts deep inside the Chiefs’ territory.
A most recent example occurred late in the second quarter of Week 12’s contest against the Oakland Raiders.
Thomas fielded a punt on a bounce at his own 17-yard line and proceeded to run backwards. The Raiders special teams coverage corralled Thomas at the 5-yard line for a 12-yard loss.
“We wanted him to field that ball the way he did,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Wednesday, “but what he has to learn is that you can’t run around NFL players. The NFL players are really, really fast and sometimes you just have to catch the ball and get the ball in your hands, and then get 5 yards or save us the ball from bouncing and we will play on from there. So that is part of his learning experience that he will get better and better at.”
Thomas’ blunder resulted in the Chiefs turning to second-year pro Frankie Hammond Jr. to field punts in the second half.
Hammond recorded two punt returns for 48 yards (24 yards per return average) against the Raiders, but Toub said the move was to calm down Thomas and it isn’t a permanent switch.
“De’Anthony is still our No. 1 punt returner,” Toub said. “We are fortunate, very fortunate to be able to have two guys. There are five or six teams in the league right now – at least – that would love to have Frankie.”
Toub has proven experience in developing returners, of course.
He has coached some of the NFL’s top returners, and arguably the all-time best in former Chicago Bears, current Atlanta Falcons returner Devin Hester.
“It’s a learning curve with punt returners,” Toub said. “I went through the same thing with Devin Hester. He’s got to learn to go get the ball, the short ones, the catches.”
Toub said he appreciates Thomas’ desire to return every kick, calling it “a great trait to have.”
But the special teams coordinator wants Thomas to understand situations and know there is a tool at the rookie’s disposal so as not to surrender field position.
“He’s got to learn that a fair catch is a weapon,” Toub said. “Use the fair catch to get up there and to get everyone out of your way, and that’s what he’s not doing. We’ve talked about it and he’s going to continue to get better at it.”
WILLIAMS EXITED FOR OPPORTUNITY
The Chiefs landed a player they had an eye on last year after signing defensive lineman Nick Williams on Monday from the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad to the active 53-man roster.
“They expressed interest in me at the Combine when I was going through it in 2013,” Williams said with a smile. “It’s a joy to be here and I’m happy to be a Chief.”
The 6-4, 309-pound Williams, who was Pittsburgh’s seventh-round pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, said he was in Birmingham, Ala., due to Pittsburgh bye week when he got the call from his agent, Dave Butz, of the Chiefs signing him.
While Pittsburgh incorporates a 3-4 defense, Williams said the Chiefs scheme is more a “hybrid 3-4” compared to the Steelers’ traditional base.
“Here they play a lot of under, under front, things of that nature,” he said. “So I just got to get in the playbook and learn it as much as I can.”
And the potential to contribute has Williams excited and looking forward to soaking in everything he’s taught.
“I just have to come in and learn the terminology, learn all the things I need to do,” Williams said. “I’m going to do that.”