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Training camp notebook: Dave Toub identifies returners, early-camp standouts

Impressing Toub is the key for the players making the roster on the bubble.

NFL: Super Bowl LVII-Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs are currently in the midst of a month-long training camp as they prepare for the 2023 season. Part of that preparation includes filling out a 53-man roster, which general manager Brett Veach will need to have finalized before Wednesday, August 30.

While the top of the roster is typically easy to predict, the bubble is where tough decisions are made. A significant part of a player making the back end of a roster is how much value they can provide on special teams. That’s where special teams coordinator Dave Toub comes in.

At times throughout the 2022 season, Toub faced criticism for special-teams woes — but the underlying truth was that a wave of roster turnover meant he was pressed to use players with little to no experience. That shouldn’t be the case in 2023.

“We knew it was going to be a big turnover, so I knew we had a bunch of young players that needed experience, and we knew it was going to take some time,” said Toub in his first media appearance of training camp on Saturday. “Now... a lot of those guys are coming back, experienced second-year guys. Confidence level, all that stuff is going to really help us I think going forward. I feel good where we’re at right now.”

Asked to name the Chiefs’ early-camp standouts, Toub wasted no time in bringing up running back Deneric Prince, whose camp performances have only strengthened his case to win the starting kick-returner job. Early in the offseason, Toub compared Prince to former Chiefs kick returner Knile Davis.

“I think [Prince is] a special talent as a returner,” said Toub. “He didn’t do it a lot in college, but I’ll tell you what: he’s got a lot of skills. I’m excited to see him in a preseason game once we get going. He’s looked really good in practice.”

That first opportunity is on August 13 in New Orleans, a date that will also allow Toub to see the first game action of fourth-round safety Charmarri Conner and seventh-round cornerback Nic Jones.

“Conner has looked good,” said Toub. “I got him starting right now on a couple [of] phases already. So he’s on the accelerated program, so to speak. We’re anticipating him being a guy for us. Nic Jones — another young rookie — [is someone] that I have on at least one phase right now.”

Toub added that returning linebackers Jack Cochrane and Leo Chenal are expected to play on all four phases of special teams, a good cue that Cochrane’s initial 53-man roster spot is safe. Free agent addition Richie James continues to impress Toub on punt returns.

“He’s probably right now the frontrunner for the job,” said Toub of James. “He’s the guy that we’re starting; you saw on the punt return. He does a good job catching. He catches everything, which is good. He’s an experienced guy — he did it at the Giants. He’s got a lot of reps under his belt. That helps — a lot. He’s looked good so far. [He’s] probably the leader in the pack right now.

“There’s other guys. [Ihmir] Smith-Marsette is doing well, and Nikko [Remigio] is doing really well. We’re excited. We still got Skyy [Moore]. We got Justin Watson, too, that could also do it when we need guys to do it.”

Toub’s words likely indicate Smith-Marsette and Remigio are among those players who will be on the Chiefs’ practice squad, should they still be available following the cut.


You can find my complete observations from Saturday’s practice here.

Post-practice chat and press conferences

If you can’t see the above (Apple iTunes) embed, click here. The press conference is also available on Spotify.

Injury report

  • Did not practice (due to injury): DE Mike Danna (calf injured on 7/28), RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (illness), TE Jody Fortson (right shoulder injured on 7/28), LB Isaiah Moore (knee injured on 7/25), CB L’Jarius Sneed (knee) WR Kadarius Toney (knee injured on 7/23), LB Drue Tranquill (neck injured on 7/28)
  • Limited: RB Isiah Pacheco (hand, labrum)
  • Left practice early: CB Nazeeh Johnson (knee)
  • Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List: DT Tershawn Wharton (ACL)

Tweet of the day

Our John Dixon compiled all of Saturday’s tweets here. Here is the tweet of the day:

One of the stranger things I’ve seen covering Chiefs training camp.

Quote of the day

Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub on whether he likes staying at Missouri Western State University: “No. I hate dorm life. I’m 61 years old living in a concrete block room.”

What’s next?

The Chiefs return to the practice field on Sunday morning for their seventh full-team practice of training camp. The workout begins at 9:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. Head coach Andy Reid will address the media following the practice as wide receivers and tight ends sign autographs. Here’s the complete 2023 training camp schedule.

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