For all the talk of competition in camp, the most unsettle position could be that of kickoff and put return specialists. Adam Teicher breaks down the various candidates jockeying for the job.
The Chiefs have a large field of candidates with no clear favorite. The list includes sixth-round draft pick Quinten Lawrence, former Arena League star Rodney Wright and Dantrell Savage, the Chiefs’ leading kick returner last year. Haley said the team has a number of potential returners.
“Quinten Lawrence is a guy we targeted as a potential returner. We’ve got a guy in Bobby (Engram) who’s returned a lot of punts in the league. You can see there is a large number back there, and some of those guys have a chance. I don’t think we ignored that area.”
The speedy Lawrence is the most intriguing possibility. He was a part-time returner in college at McNeese State and took his only punt return 70 yards for a touchdown. That lack of experience has showed at camp, where Lawrence is having trouble fielding punts.
“I didn’t spend too much time working on it back then. That’s why I’m getting as much practice as I am now. I’m doing OK, but I can do better, definitely. I can judge the punts a lot better. It’s way harder than it looks. A lot of it is focus. If you focus on the ball and use the right techniques, you’ll get it. I’m getting a lot of help. I’m going to get it right.”
Wright, on the other hand, appears to have distanced himself from a group of lesser-experienced wide receivers, which could give him an edge when the Chiefs make their final roster cuts.
If Lawrence or another candidate doesn’t step forward, Haley indicated the Chiefs could turn to Engram, at least on a part-time basis. Engram hasn’t been a regular return specialist for several years but has experience from earlier in his career and would have no problem with that option.
“I’m trying to win games. If I need to do it, I’ll do it. But I don’t see (the need for) that. We’ve got some young guys that can make plays. They’ll shine and they’ll show what they can do.”
If Lawrence, Savage and/or Wright aren’t ready for primetime by the time Week 1 rolls around, I love the idea of having Engram temporarily handle the return duties. This would take any pressure off the young guys, not to mention the coaching staff as they have much bigger fish to fry between now and kickoff in Baltimore.
The ideal lineup for me would be Lawrence returning punts and Jamaal Charles taking kickoffs. Charles is probably not going to do much returning with his increased role on the offense, but I think he has the potential to do some special — pun intended — things for this team.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn’t known for drawing laughs, but that’s exactly what happened when he was asked for his recollections of Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas.
Belichick recalled Thomas as one of the fastest pass rushers to ever play the game. However, Thomas wasn’t as fast as usual around the edge playing in Cleveland during Belichick’s first season as Browns coach.
“Must have been the moisture coming in off Lake [Erie], but it was real damp and wet. I think the grounds crew wasn’t able to cut the grass.”
My memory is good, but it’s not that good. So I went back to check the box score and the Chiefs not only lost the game Belichick is talking about (20-15), but they only had 2.0 sacks — none by DT.
I can only imagine some of the lengths that teams went to beyond “trying to get him blocked” that we will never fully know about. I would wager that not mowing the grass and then soaking it would not even rank in the top 10.
Another story I had never heard about Derrick Thomas comes this morning from Bob Gretz about another member of the 2009 Hall of Fame class.
After DT’s auto accident and his move to a Miami hospital he had many visitors in the days before he passed away. One was Bruce Smith.
“I went down there to see him and when I got there, he was trying out this wheelchair and he was racing down the hall and he still had that big smile on his face. But it just broke my heart to see him that way. We had a good visit and then a couple days later, he was gone. I still can’t believe that. I miss him.”
We all miss him, Bruce.