KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The sight of wide receiver/punt returner De’Anthony Thomas putting the ball on the ground was common through the first two games.
The explosive Thomas muffed a punt in the season opener against the Houston Texans, and then lost a fumble in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos.
Thomas’ issues with securing the ball are out of character when considering he didn’t lose a fumble during his rookie season of 2014, and his special teams coach doesn’t appear concerned.
“Last year, he was solid,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “He might have bobbled a couple, but he came off a great year last year.
“We talk about just securing the football, making sure he makes the catch before he takes off. He got a little excited on that one. He saw it was a clear, wide-open deal, he just didn’t finish the catch.”
And given Thomas’ excitement, Toub doesn’t believe his primary punt returner is trying to do too much with the football.
“I think he just wants to make a play,” Toub said, “and if we’re blocking them up and he sees that its clear he gets a little excited. He got excited on that one and didn’t finish the catch. He knows better, he’s an experienced guy now, he’ll make that correction.”
Thomas missed time during the preseason after sustaining a calf injury in the preseason opener and he’s also appeared on the weekly injury report with the ailment.
Toub, however, points out Thomas still got in work during that time.
“He gets a lot in practice,” the special teams coordinator said, “even when he was hurt, he was still catching balls before practice. It’s a matter of being excited.”
Thomas won’t have to worry over losing the punt returner duties anytime soon with Toub in the second-year pro’s corner.
“I think he’ll settle down now,” Toub said. “He’ll be fine.”
NELSON CONTINUES TO DEVELOP
Rookie Steven Nelson, one of two third-round picks in May’s NFL Draft, is making the transition from playing outside in college to the nickel cornerback position with the Chiefs.
He has been inactive through the first two games, and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton offered an update on Nelson’s progress.
“I’d say he’s still learning,” Sutton said. “The hard part now is you don’t get a lot of reps, that’s the most difficult thing once you come out of camp because we don’t have many reps and the guys that are actually playing are the vast majority of those. And so really for any backup player now, it’s a really challenging thing, to keep improving.”
Sutton said despite the obstacle, it is important for young players to take advantage of opportunities in practice, especially when on the scout team, and work on technique and fundamentals.
“You can still do a lot of things, technically, you’re obviously mimicking the opponent’s defense,” Sutton said, “but there’s still a lot of fundamental things you can work on that are really important. And if you don’t work on them in that period, you’re not going to improve.”
It doesn’t take long for Chiefs wide receiver Jason Avant to recall what happened at Lambeau Field in Week 1 of the 2007 season.
“Oh yeah, that’s funny,” Avant said with a big grin. “That was my first touchdown.”
Avant took the field as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, then led by current Chiefs coach Andy Reid, and found the end zone on a 9-yard pass from quarterback Donovan McNabb at the 6-minute mark of the second quarter.
The occasion marked Avant’s first career start, but also carried special meaning because of the All-Pro cornerback defending him throughout the contest.
“I was in my second year,” Avant said. “I was plagued with some injuries my first year, so I had my first chance to start that game and I was going against Charles Woodson.
“I was up all night because I went to Michigan, he went to Michigan, I knew everything about him. So I was really excited to play and I said, ‘You know what? If I can play and beat him consistently, I can play in this league.’ And I got a chance to play and do really well against him and get open every time, so it was good.”
Avant now enters his 10th season, so the longevity offers proof everything has been good throughout his professional career.