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Training camp notebook: Dave Toub names top 2 gunners after Nazeeh Johnson's injury

Kansas City’s special teams coordinator has his eyes on two players heading into the first preseason game.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With the conclusion of the Kansas City Chiefs' Saturday 10-10-10 practice, the club is now a week away from their first preseason game. The Chiefs will travel to New Orleans on Saturday afternoon for a game with the Saints next Sunday, August 13, at Noon Arrowhead Time.

The preseason is critical for the team's offensive and defensive starters to get live plays under their belt before the regular season. For special teams coordinator Dave Toub, it's the perfect time to get a look at who can help out in the game's third phase.

Asked for who he is looking forward to seeing the most, Toub mentioned rookie seventh-round cornerback Nic Jones — as well as undrafted rookie running back Deneric Prince, who is set to return kicks for the Chiefs this season. This offseason, the league passed a new kickoff rule (that Toub opposed), which allows returners to fair catch the ball anywhere behind the 25-yard line — and their team will get the ball at the 25.

In Kansas City’s preseason, Toub says that won't come into play.

"We're not going to fair catch — not in the preseason," confirmed Toub. “If they kick the ball to us and we can get our hands on it, we want to return it. We want to find out what we've got. We've got to find out who could block, who could return. I'm sure they're thinking the same thing.

“On kickoff, we want kick returns so we can evaluate our kickoff team. You won't see a lot of fair catches in the preseason, I don't think, across the board. It's going to be hard to evaluate: is the fair-catch rule good or not during the preseason? It's not going to really come into play until the regular season, I don't think."

Kansas City recently lost promising second-year cornerback Nazeeh Johnson to a torn ACL. It was a significant loss, not only because he is Toub's favorite gunner, but also because he was pushing for playing time with the top-team defense. (Gunners line up closest to the sideline and are responsible for running down the field and tracking down the returner on kickoffs and punts).

The special teams coordinator must now identify other players to fill that role.

"Right now, we got [Justin] Watson and [Joshua] Williams — those are our two gunners right now going forward," said Toub. "Hopefully, some of these young guys — maybe [Ekow] Boye-Doe — maybe he comes through. Watson, the wide receiver, and [Justyn] Ross, the other wide receiver, all those guys all have a shot. They're all going to get reps, but we'll start off with those two."

Boye-Doe earned first-team defensive reps on Friday and Saturday, but Toub will have to see if he has what it takes to provide value on specials teams.

"He's coming on, especially recently," Toub said of the 6-foot, 177-pound cornerback. "The thing about him, he's not a real big guy, so you're wondering how he's going to hold up. We've got him at gunner, so you're going to see him in there. He's going to have to use his speed to be able to get out on guys to be able to run. But he's got the top-end speed.

"The big question is, is he going to play bigger than he actually is? Because he's about 177 pounds; he's kind of slight. We've had guys that have been that small that came on and became great players for us, so it's not impossible."

Ross, who is listed at 6'4" and 210 lbs., likely has the weight Toub is looking for. On Friday, Ross downed a punt at the 1-yard line.

"That's part of the gunner job," said Toub. "In the pooch area, you don't get doubled a lot. You've got eight guys in the box, so you're singled up, and you can get out and run. And then your job is to go down and make a play on the ball when Tommy [Townsend] hangs it up. That's what we were working on [Friday]. He's got that skill."

All the players mentioned by Toub are great bets to make the initial roster; playing well on special teams will only strengthen their case.


Arrowhead Pride lead analyst Ron Kopp was in attendance Saturday — and rounded up his observations 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), TE Jody Fortson (right shoulder injured on 7/28), DL Charles Omenihu (calf injured on 8/2), CB L'Jarius Sneed (knee swelling on 7/31), WR Kadarius Toney (knee injured on 7/23)
  • Limited: RB Isiah Pacheco (hand, labrum)
  • Returned to practice: CB Reese Taylor (hamstring), CB Jaylen Watson

Tweet of the day

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

The rookie can do it all.

Quote of the day

Chiefs rookie swing tackle Wanya Morris on whether he will put the club's media corps out of a job with his photography skills: "Indubitably."

What's next?

The Chiefs have a day off on Sunday before returning to the field on Monday morning for their 13th full-team training camp practice. 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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