Ed. Note: Every evening from now until July 26 – the day every Chiefs player is expected to report for training camp – we will countdown and discuss some of the more important questions for the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs.
One of the more interesting parts of the offseason was the total overhaul of what was already considered to be a very good roster. The improvement in the bottom half of the 53-man roster should do more than just provide the Chiefs with depth but also help what has been a struggling special teams unit. Here is a mini break down of what Chiefs fans should expect from one of the more underrated aspects of a football team.
You can make a solid case Dustin Colquitt is the best punter in football. His ability to flip a field and prevent long returns is one of the major weapons the Chiefs have at their disposal.
Last season, Colquitt pinned opponents back inside their own 20 45 times in 83 punts (54.2%), and averaged 40.8 net yards per punt (10th in NFL) even though the Chiefs had one of the worst coverage units in the NFL. Those numbers helped earn him his first career Pro-Bowl appearance.
KC signed him to a huge five-year, $18.75 million deal over the offseason to make him the highest paid punter in the NFL. It is a steep price tag but his value to the Chiefs is probably more than what they are paying him.
Ryan Succop has some infuriating moments, but his 81.5% field goal percentage is one of the best in the NFL. Those numbers would skyrocket if he were to be more consistent from inside the 40. Last season, Succop missed four field goals from within 39 yards, one more than he had missed from inside that distance than he had missed in the last three years combined.
However, Succop made tremendous strides in being able to consistently make field goals from beyond 40 yards, making 12 of his 14 attempts. If he can continue last season’s improvements from distance and return to his consistent ways from within 39 yards then he becomes one of the most accurate kickers in all of football.
One of the biggest signs of the Chiefs lack of depth in the Scott Pioli years was their inability to cover kicks and punts. According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs were below average in kick returns. Colquitt covered the flaws of a punt return unit that allowed 13.4 yards per return in 27 attempts.
With upgrades to the secondary and linebacking positions, the Chiefs should be able to improve these numbers since they should be deeper at key special teams positions. That depth should make the kick return coverage average, at worst, and make the punting team one of the best in the NFL.
Only the Dallas Cowboys had a worse kick return unit than the Chiefs. The inability to get consistent blocking or have a dynamic return man killed the Chiefs chances to gain extra field position. And while Javier Arenas was okay as a punt returner, the Chiefs still ranked as a well below average punt return unit as well.
Enter new potential returners Dexter McCluster and Knile Davis. Each saw a lot of action returning kicks and punts during the OTA’s and both of dynamic skills to break long runs. McCluster has both the speed and the agility to avoid tacklers in the open field, while Davis owns a great of power while also being a speedster himself. Their abilities to potentially return kicks for touchdowns should make the return units more dangerous, if not average.
Ultimately, the key to the Chiefs special teams is going to come from having a more complete roster from top to bottom instead of having a top-heavy roster. A strong special teams unit is going to be key if the Chiefs are going to make their desired climb from worst-to-first.