Chiefs special teams film review, Week 9: Deon Bush balls out

Chiefs special teams film review, Week 9: Deon Bush balls out

During the bye week, we reviewed the Chiefs’ special teams unit and came to the conclusion that the punt coverage has been great, the punt return has been terrible, and the kickoff game on both sides has been somewhere in between.

The Chiefs seemed to realize that the punt return game hasn’t been working because they made a big change to that sub-unit in their 20-17 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 9. We’ll review that, but first, we I’ll take a look on safety Deon Bush’s dominant performance on kickoff coverage.

Don’t forget: My special teams stats, snap counts and individual player grades are available as a Google Sheet. Check these out to see how each of the Chiefs’ special teams has performed so far this year.

Kickoff coverage: Don’t leave Deon Bush unblocked

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In my bye week review, I noted that the Chiefs’ kickoff coverage subunit started shaky in the first few weeks, but has turned around since Week 5. This turnaround continued in Week 9 when the Chiefs allowed a field position average of 19.25-yard line when the Titans returned kickoffs .

Of the four Titans kickoffs returned, Bush was blocked on three of them. And every time Bush was blocked, he made the tackle. Take a look:

It may seem easy for a player to make a tackle when it is not blocked, but that is not always the case, especially on special teams. Kickoffs go exceptionally fast. If a player takes the wrong angle, they can get stuck behind a crowd of defenders and their own teammates.

The key to being a good kickoff defender isn’t just about throwing blocks or making tackles – it’s also about anticipating where the runner will go and understanding the geometry of the field, knowing when to stop and cut across or even back up to track down. the ball carrier.

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Of course tackling is also part of a good kickoff defender. My favorite tackle that Bush made Sunday night against Tennessee was his last tackle which came in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs had just tied the game at 17 and needed a big stop with less than three minutes left:

Bush cut across the field at the perfect angle, knowing exactly where Titans returner Hassan Haskins would go. Bush hit Haskins with tremendous speed and brought him down with ease.

As noted in my tweet above, Bush’s tackle set the tone for the defensive front. A long return by the Titans could have dented the Chiefs’ confidence and set up a field goal by Tennessee, but a big special teams play made all the difference in keeping the energy level high for Kansas City. That’s one of many reasons why it’s important to have ballplayers like Bush on special teams.

Punt returns: Mecole Hardman taking over?

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At the time of the bye, the Chiefs had one of the league’s worst punt return subunits.

Much of that was due to the inexperience of rookie receiver/returner Skyy Moore who had trouble tracking the ball, fumbling twice. He also averaged just seven yards per return.

It looked like the Chiefs were trying to mold the punt returner of the future in Moore, but that plan didn’t seem to work out. In Week 9, the Chiefs called an audible and put veteran receiver/returner Mecole Hardman back in the punt return spot.

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It turned out to be a good idea, as Hardman averaged 10.5 yards per return on four punt returns. He had two punt returns that went 20 or more yards. His fourth return was his best of the day:

This is a classic technique that Toub ran with Devin Hester and Johnny Knox back in 2011 when he was the coordinator for the Bears. It’s a tough play to run successfully, but Watson did a good job tracking the ball, fielding it at the end of the run and taking it up 17 yards.

Unfortunately, Titans linebacker Joe Jones (No. 42) identified the direction of the shot before Watson fielded it. Jones pointed it out to his teammates in the middle of coverage, so the decoy aspect didn’t work. Still, it was an interesting concept that raises some questions: First, will Toub ever run this again? Maybe, but it could be years before he does.

The other question is whether Toub will allow Watson or anyone else to return punts this season. Watson did a good job on that return, so why not let him try more? And what other options do the Chiefs have at punt returner? Many, in fact: they have Moore, obviously, but also newly acquired receiver Kadarius Toney, rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie, or maybe even running back Isiah Pacheco. It’s clear that Hardman will be the team’s go-to guy in key situations going forward, but don’t be surprised when Toub experiments with other options this season.

More special team notes

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Just a few more special team notes and off we go. Promise.

  • Kicker Harrison Butker was 2-for-3 on field goals and 0-for-1 on extra points. It is unclear why he has been less reliable since returning from injury, but one has to wonder if he is truly fully healthy.

  • Safety Bryan Cook had a great Week 9. He had a solo tackle on kickoff coverage and an assisted tackle on punt coverage. He had a rough start on special teams this season, but has turned a corner for the better in recent weeks.

  • Receiver Marcus Kemp also had a nice game with two tackles (one solo, one assisted) on punt coverage. He is the Chiefs’ AND special teams ace.

  • Penalties were a big problem for this crew in Week 9. The Chiefs’ special teams unit was penalized four times, the most in a single game this season. Two of those penalties were on cornerback Chris Lammons. Special team penalties can really kill a team’s field position battle, so Toub needs to make sure they are cleaned up going forward.

The story originally appeared on Chiefs Wire

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