When the Kansas City Chiefs began their season, we expected to see former New York Giants (and San Francisco 49ers) free-agent wide receiver Richie James handle punt and kickoff returns. Thanks to the league’s latest change to kickoff rules, there were expected to be only a small number of the latter.
Over two games, James fielded six punts for 24 yards — plus a single kickoff return for 14 yards. But on September 23, he was placed on the team’s Reserve/Injured list with a knee injury.
The Chiefs, however, had already signed his replacement: wide receiver Montrell Williams was in the first group of players signed to the team’s practice squad after the initial cutdown to 53 players. Here’s how our Jared Sapp described the 5-foot-10, 170-pound wideout.
A 2022 fifth-round selection of the Denver Broncos, Washington was waived during final cuts. The Samford product failed to carve a significant role on offense as a rookie — catching four passes for two yards while adding 30 yards on the ground on five rushes. The Chiefs likely covet his dependability on special teams, as he returned 32 punts and 18 kickoffs in his first season.
In other words... the former Bronco met the minimum requirements for the job.
“[Washington] catches the ball well [and] makes good decisions,” special-teams coordinator Dave Toub told reporters during his Thursday media scrum. “[All] the normal, good things right now. I mean, it’s early. He’s only had two games under his belt — [but] he’s been solid.”
Toub, however, was willing to acknowledge that Washington has been a player the team has been watching.
“Yeah, when he was coming out [of college], we did,” said Toub, “but then we played against him last year at Denver. I mean, he has a lot of reps, you know — he’s got a lot of experience in there.
“He was a guy that we thought was pretty good when we played him — and we were lucky to get him onto our practice squad, I thought. Then it was good to let him develop in that way, learn what we do and [have] the opportunity to get him going — [which] came up when 17 [James] got hurt. So he’s done a good job for us.”
In two games — one after being elevated for the Week 3 game against the Chicago Bears and the other against the New York Jets after being activated to the roster last week — Washington has returned four punts for 43 yards. Toub noted that one of the things they like about him is that he — like James — can do both punt and kickoff returns.
“It is a preference,” admitted Toub. “A guy that could do both.”
It could be a while, however, before we get to see Washington return a kickoff. So far, Kansas City has received the ball on 14 kickoffs. All but one — James’ 14-yard return against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 — has been a touchback.
“The time will come,” said Toub. “But he’s looked good in practice with that.”