KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs running back Knile Davis split kickoff return duty with wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub, however, left little doubt Thursday who is the main guy.
“He’s going to continue to be our No. 1 kick returner going forward,” Toub said of Davis. “He played a little bit of punt return for us last week. We might use (running back) Spencer Ware in that role a little bit more, we’ll see.”
Toub said there are determining factors as to who lines up to field kickoff between Davis and Thomas, including game situation and wind.
“Each guy has a different style,” Toub said, “and if we want to hit them straight up the field, we might go with one guy and the other guy is more of a bounce guy.”
Still, the biggest area that will affect how much work Davis sees on kickoff duty requires a balancing act since he is now part of a backfield committee with Jamaal Charles out for the season with a torn ACL.
Davis carried the ball five times for 13 yards in Week 6, while Charcandrick West led the team with 33 yards rushing on nine carries.
“We keep an eye on it, game to game it changes,” Toub said. “If he’s (Davis) the hot hand and he’s getting a lot of touches, we’ll take him off some special teams during the game.”
The Chiefs have other options to consider as returners outside of Davis and Thomas, such as rookie wide receiver Chris Conley, wide receiver Albert Wilson or wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr.
THOMAS IN THE BACKFIELD
Wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas lined up in the backfield as a tailback against the Vikings and took a handoff from quarterback Alex Smith.
Thomas didn’t do much with the carry, gaining just a yard, but offensive coordinator Doug Pederson indicated the Chiefs want to get Thomas the ball in different situations.
“The last couple weeks we’ve done that with him – Minnesota and Chicago – we’ve put him in the backfield and given him a couple touches here and there,” Pederson said. “I think it just presents – again, allows the defense to see a little different formation, a different guy in the backfield.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Thomas, who played tailback in college, is dangerous in the open field.
“Any way that we can get 13 involved we try to do it,” Pederson said. “And he’s a natural runner that way, so it’s good to keep him involved that way.”
The Chiefs stuffed Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in Week 6 to the tune of 60 yards rushing on 26 carries, an average of 2.3 yards per game, and currently rank 11th against the run, allowing 96.2 yards per game.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton looks to build off the Week 6 performance and use what his defense accomplished against Peterson going forward.
And the defense faces a test with Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, whose 390 yards rushing ranks as the 11th-most in the NFL despite Bell missing the first two games of the season while serving a suspension.
“I think one, you have to really play well up front,” Sutton said. “The front has to do a great job and you have to limit the time these guys – as we talked before the Minnesota game – limit the times this guy can get to your second level right away.
“The second thing, when you’re playing these backs like this, you really need a great team defense. You need to keep the ball inside and in front of the defense and you need your backside people never to relax.”
Sutton said it is important to do the second thing Sunday against the Steelers because of the numerous outside weapons at Pittsburgh’s disposal, from wide receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.
“That’s one of the big things in this game all the way because their receivers are all great vertical threats,” Sutton said. “But they’re also great catch-and-run guys and they make a lot of yards catching the ball and turning it into a huge play.
“It’s going to demand in this game every player, every play and you have to think ‘I’m the key guy on this play. I may be over there on that far number, but before this thing’s over, they may need me. So I have to be working and working really hard this week.’”
The Chiefs have recent experience against Bell, and held the star running back to 63 yards rushing on 20 carries in Week 16 of the 2014 season.