With training camp behind him, Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator (and assistant head coach) Dave Toub spoke to the media before the team’s first practice back in Kansas City on Monday.
After many of his regular contributors were not re-signed in free agency, Toub spent his time in St. Joseph getting to know some new faces. Most of the team’s remaining roster decisions will likely come down to special-teams contributions — a factor to watch in the Chiefs’ final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night.
One of the biggest decisions remaining for Toub is who will be his primary punt returner. Despite having no experience in the return game at Western Michigan, second-round wide receiver Skyy Moore appears to be Toub’s choice. Moore had one return (for one yard) and fair-caught another during Saturday’s 24-14 preseason victory over the Washington Commanders.
“I think he’s building confidence every game,” Toub said of Moore’s efforts. “I really liked that second one where he went after it. It was a short kick. We had a right return call but there was not a lot of blocking over there, but he still went up and caught it and saved us some yardage — and held onto the ball when he got hit. So, I mean that was good to see. He’s getting a lot more confident with his catching — and his ball reads — so we’ve got to keep working him. I tried to get him as many as I could in that last game.”
Even with the minimal return, Toub appeared to be fine with Moore’s decision-making on the play.
“If you fair catch it, obviously you can’t return it,” he explained, “so he was trying to steal it. He was trying to get something out of it. I like his courage right now; that’s a good thing to see. You want to have a returner who is willing to take chances.
“It’s a tough job. I tell our guys, ‘You’ve got quarterback — [and] then you’ve got punt returner as far as the toughest jobs in the NFL.’ I think it’s hard. You have to have courage — and you have to have toughness, the ball reads and everything that goes along with it. You have to trust your teammates — that they’re going to block for you — because you don’t get to see it a lot of times.”
Toub faces another challenge: rebuilding his coverage teams after so many of his regulars have been replaced by younger players.
“I’m learning a lot right now,” he admitted. “We have to replace something like eight guys that are gone. So we have a lot of new guys. That’s what we’re doing in these preseason games: finding guys and seeing who your best gunners are [and] seeing who’s competing on defense. There’s a lot of competition out there at corner [and] there’s a lot of competition at linebacker. Those are the spots that there are still jobs up for grabs — even coming into this game.”
One player Toub does not need to get to know is cornerback Chris Lammons. Even though he has rarely contributed on defense over the last two seasons, Lammons has been one of the team’s better special-teams players. On Saturday, he played a larger defensive role — and had a game-sealing interception on a pass from Washington rookie quarterback Sam Howell.
“He’s our best gunner,” said Toub. “He’s a good player. He’s trying to establish himself on defense. He did a good job in that game. They played him a lot more; he showed up a little bit. That was good to see.
“We don’t have just special-teams guys. They have to be able to play offense or defense. It’s good to see a player I like — Lammons — doing well on defense.”
A new player who likely will play a major role on Toub’s unit is former Chicago Bears safety Deon Bush, who signed with the Chiefs in April.
“He’s a critical guy,” declared Toub. “I look at him like [former Chiefs safety] Armani Watts last year. He’s that guy. He does a lot. He’s our hybrid on the kickoff return team. He’s an important guy.”
Going into Thursday’s game, the Chiefs will roster 80 players. The final cutdown to 53 will take place the following Tuesday. But Toub is confident that some of the players who do not make the initial roster may still contribute — and it will likely start with special teams.
“There is a 16-man practice squad roster,” he noted. “That is huge. The new rule they put in with COVID? Then they kept it going. I’m glad they kept it going because you have a guy trained. You cut him, he doesn’t get picked up by somebody [and] you get him on the practice squad.
“He’s a guy that you can go to if you get an injury. Boom! You’ve got a guy trained up who knows your system — and you plug him in. I think we’re going to have some good players in that category.”