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News » Kansas City Chiefs Inside Slant 2009-05-15

Kansas City Chiefs Inside Slant 2009-05-15

Kansas City Chiefs Inside Slant 2009-05-15
In the past 15 seasons, the Chiefs had two of the NFL's most explosive kick and punt returners in Tamarick Vanover and Dante Hall. Over five seasons (1995-99), Vanover had eight returns for touchdowns. Hall took over the duties for six seasons (2001-06) and had 11 scores on returns, including a stretch at the start of 2003 when he had a return touchdown in four straight games.

But since Hall left before the '07 season and went to St. Louis in a trade, the Chiefs have struggled in the return game. Struggled is putting it mildly.

In 2007-08, the Chiefs averaged 7.0 yards on punt returns and 20.4 yards on kickoff returns. The team had only one kickoff return that went for over 40 yards and one punt return that exceeded 30 yards in two seasons.

Coach Todd Haley wants to change that missing element in the Chiefs' special teams attack for the 2009 season. He's determined to find a difference-making return.

"I've told everybody here that if you can be a better than average punt and kick returner you've got a very good chance of making this team," Haley said during the team's rookie mini-camp over the first weekend in May. "I don't know that we have one right now."

Working in the rookie camp on returns was first-year player-Arena League refugee Rodney White and sixth-round draft choice Quinten Lawrence. On the veteran roster are second-year running backs Jamaal Charles and Dantrell Savage and free-agent wide receiver Terrance Copper, along with wide receivers Jeff Webb and C.J. Jones.

Charles returned 15 kickoffs last year for 21.4 yards, with a 40-yard return as his longest. Savage returned 26 kickoffs in '08 for 24.3 yards on average with a long return of 59 yards. Savage also had eight punt returns for a 2.1-yard average. Over his career, Copper has returned 26 kickoffs for a 19.3-yard average and Webb has returned 17 kickoffs for a 21.9-yard average.

There's not an NFL touchdown on a return among them.

Lawrence returned only one punt in his college career at McNeese State; that came last year when he took it back 70 yards for a score. As a freshman, he averaged 23.9 yards on kickoff returns in the 2005 season.

What the draft choice brings to the competition is speed. He was clocked at the NCAA track regionals in 10.49 seconds in the 100 meters.

"That's a great opportunity for somebody," Haley said. "That's definitely an area we went into the draft and the offseason knowing we needed to find somebody."

Is Lawrence that guy?

"I'm not speculating whether he can or can't right now," Haley said. "He's got a long way to go."

So do the Chiefs when it comes to returning kickoffs and punts to the end zone.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 15, 2009

Trevor Johnson Name: Trevor Johnson
Position: DE
Age: 27
Experience: 5 years
College: Nebraska
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