Not So Special Teams … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

When Dexter McCluster returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown in the season opener against San Diego it seemed a harbinger of a good things for the Chiefs special teams.

But that promise did not show itself for the final 16 games and it would have to go down as a mediocre season for the Chiefs kicking game. For a team that overachieved on both offense and defense, they underachieved on special teams.

“That’s an area that we have to compete in at a high level and be better in against most teams that we play for us to stand a competitive chance,” was pretty much a weekly comment form head coach Todd Haley

After McCluster’s opening night TD, the return game was not much of a factor. K Ryan Succop did not show major improvement from his solid rookie season. The Chiefs did not block a field goal or punt and they allowed a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

On the positive side, the overall coverage units were among the league’s best and punter Dustin Colquitt had a solid season.

Here’s an inside look at all aspects of the kicking game and how it played out for the Chiefs in the ’10 season and what needs to improve in the ’11 season for the Chiefs to improve.


Succop kicked off 78 times. Two of those were onside attempts and the Chiefs did not recover either one. Of those 76 kickoffs, there were eight touchbacks, a total that put him in the middle of the league’s kickers. He was well behind league leader Billy Cundiff who had 40 touchbacks on the season for Baltimore.

On average, Succop kickoffs traveled an average of 62.6 yards, or between the opponents’ seven- eight-yard lines. On those 76 full kickoffs, 25 reached the end zone.

Opponents average starting field position after Succop kickoffs was the 27.9-yard line, finishing 23rd, well behind league leader Atlanta; their opponents average start was at the 22.2-yard line.


This was easily the best part of the Chiefs special teams during the ’10 season. With the exception of one breakdown to start the second half of their game in Oakland, they were good to very good in coverage all season. That exception was the 94-yard TD return by Raiders rookie WR Jacoby Ford.

On Succop’s 76 kickoffs, 66 were returned by opponents and they averaged 20.2 yards per return. The teams better than the Chiefs were Cleveland (17.8-yard average), Washington, N.Y. Jets, N.Y. Giants and Pittsburgh. Only two of those returns went for more than 35 yards and 36 returns went for less than 20 yards.

A dozen of those 76 kickoffs left the opponent starting inside their 20-yard line, while three of the returns brought the ball past the 50-yard line.

The Chiefs faced only three of the top 10 kickoff returners in the NFL, and they were ranked No. 8-9-10: Seattle’s Leon Washington (25.6 yards), Tennessee’s Marc Mariani (25.5 yards) and Denver’s Eric Decker (25.3 yards). Against the Chiefs, those three averaged 18.1 yards on a dozen returns.


This is where Succop took a small step backwards compared to his rookie season. Over 16 games in ’09, he missed only four FG attempts. In the ’10 season, he missed six FGs.

Succop was 20 of 26, for 76.9 percent. That left him tied for 31st among NFL kickers, far behind the best in the league that average near 90 percent. He also missed two FGs inside the 40-yard line, and those have become “gimmees” for most of NFL kickers.

On his six misses, he was wide left once, wide right three times, he was short once and had one FG blocked.

He was 6-of-6 from the 29-yard line and in; 13-of-15 from the 39-yard line and in; 19-of-23 from the 49-yard line and in. From the 50-yard line-plus, he was 1-of-3, hitting from 53 yards and missing from 51 and 52 yards.

On the season, Succop had one game winning FG, that against Buffalo on the last play of overtime.


After the 94-yard punt return for a TD by McCluster in the opener, the longest punt return over the remaining 15 games was 36 yards. McCluster led the team with a 15.5-yard average on punt returns, but after the opener, McCluster’s average was just nine yards.

The longest kickoff return on the season for the Chiefs was 36 yards and the team averaged 19.7 yards per return. CB Javier Arenas led the team in kickoff returns with a 21.1 average. Dexter McCluster averaged 20.3 yards on kickoff returns.

Every other team in the league had a kickoff return of more than 36 yards.

Not once on the team’s 58 kickoff returns did the Chiefs begin their possession on the opponents’ side of the 50-yard line. Their average starting field position after a kickoff was the 24.6-yard line. That ranked then 30th in the league, ahead of only Houston and Indianapolis.


The best performer on special teams in ’10 was Dustin Colquitt. He averaged 44.4 yards per punt on 88 punts. That matched his career average coming into the season. His net average was 37.6 yards and that was a good three yards behind what he did in the ’09 season when he had his career best net average season. One thing that hurt was 10 touchbacks, the second highest total in the league and a season-high over his career.

Colquitt had one punt blocked, the third in his six seasons with the Chiefs. His long punt of 72 yards tied for the longest punt on the season in the league. He placed 33 punts inside the 20-yard line, ranking third in the league in that category.


They were 12th in punt coverage, allowing an average return of 8.6 yards. The league leader was Cincinnati, allowing an average return of 4.8 yards.

Only two of the top 10 punt returners played against the Chiefs: (4) Marc Mariani of Tennessee and (6) Eddie Royal of Denver. In three games, those two had eight returns for 65 yards, with the longest return being 18 yards.


  • BEARS – signed reserve/futures contract with QB Matt Gutierrez.
  • COLTS – fired RB coach Gene Huey.
  • PATRIOTS – signed reserve/futures contracts with TE Carson Butler, QB Jonathan Crompton, WR Buddy Farnham, DL Marlon Favorite, WR Darnell Jenkins, CB Thad Turner and S Ross Ventrone.
  • RAMS – named Josh McDaniels offensive coordinator.
  • RAVENS – defensive coordinator Greg Mattison left to take the same job at the University of Michigan; promoted secondary coach Chuck Pagano to defensive coordinator.
  • SEAHAWKS – fired offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates; hired Tom Cable as offensive line coach and Todd Wash as defensive line coach.
  • VIKINGS – named Mike Singletary as assistant head coach/linebackers coach.

10 Responses to “Not So Special Teams … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • January 19, 2011  - Dan-NY says:

    Bob– Re: Succop kickoffs. When we say he had a mediocre season, isn’t that misleading due to all of those so-called mortar kicks? It seemed Ryan was handcuffed nearly every game to short-kick due to the threat of the opponent’s kick return stud. Punters have the inside-20 stat, but kickers don’t have any such record that I know. Thanx. =Dan=

  • January 19, 2011  - Edward says:

    Succup had some slippage in his play this season. He must improve and be one of those guys that go to next level in his 3rd yr as a kicker. Mcluster and Arenas must make more of an overall impact as return guy but as roster improve so should special teams.

  • January 19, 2011  - Carl says:

    McCluster and Arenas have the talent to be very good returners. What they need is better blocking and return schemes.

  • January 19, 2011  - el cid says:

    Special teams are so important to the overall game plan, I am sure we all can agree on that. But right now we need to focus on offense and defense. The entire second round was dedicated to the return game,in terms of long careers, neither Mc or Arenas seem built for the NFL in terms of longevity. Really could have used a NT or WR or DT or LB over smaller scat back or nickle back types. They are here, so not point in arguing over what they are. (Carl do not buy into it, they were there the first game and disappeared on sp. teams after that. what changed in games 2 thru 16, no major injuries, same coaches, just no results)

    This draft building blocks with starting ability, no more developemental types. I will buy what Haley wants, bet you it is not another Jackson, more Berry types, starters.

  • January 19, 2011  - el cid says:

    McDaniels went to StL to work as OC. Did not think a good fit anyway. One less OC falls from the lists, looks like inhouse hire. To bad.

  • January 19, 2011  - Nate says:

    Carl said it best. The blocking on kickoffs and punt returns was terrible, particulary on punts 90%+ of the time Arenas was catching the ball with opposing players within 1 or 2 yards of him. to his credit he had very sure hands with opposing players all around him. I would point out that Arenas and McCluster both had long returns for touchdowns that were called back on silly holding penalities totally away from the play. Finally Bob I am going to call you on some double speak. You said except for the 94 yard kickoff return by McCluster that the Chiefs didn’t have a return of more than 36 yards and every other team in the NFL had a return of more than 36 yards. Well guess what Bob so did the Chiefs have a return of more than 36 yards. In case you forgot it was 94 yards! You sometimes compare apples to alligators!

  • January 19, 2011  - napahank says:

    I agree with all statements above regarding stats as:
    1. Succop: Mortar kicks bias the stats. “Deep” kicks into the wind or with the wind bias the stats. Succop actually only “missed” four FG’s as blocked shouldn’t count and the sudden wind gust during Buffalo game was a freak condition (which he adjusted for later to win it). One 53 yard attempt in 26 degree weather was 2 feet short…I can live with that.Succop has to develop more leg strength to kick off deeper. His FG kicking is fine.

    2. Kick return blocking and running does need improvement. We have way too much speed threat to not have better starting position. I have a theory that the “wedge” is too close to the returner and should be engaging would be tacklers farther up field. You always see DMC decelerate because he comes upon his wedge blockers too quick.

    3. Punting is the most biased stat of all. To me how far, how high and directional punting are all that matters. Of those three Dustin is an elite punter in distance and hang time. If he could directional punt out of bounds with great accuracy, he would be the best.

    4. Punt and kick coverage I feel very good about. Punt coverage is made easy by Dustin’s hang time.

    I feel that our special teams are “very special” maybe in part for what we didn’t give the opposition in field position or scores as much as what we gave ourselves.

  • January 19, 2011  - Michael says:

    Nate and Carl are right on. The blocking units just didn’t cut it on the kick returns. No way to know how long the careers will be for Arenas and McCluster. Nickel back is one of the most important positions on defense these days with the expansion of the passing game in modern football. McCluster did take some nasty hits, and he’s going to have to learn how to protect himself better (plus, Cassel can’t hang him out to dry so often), but he can be a great mismatch problem for the Chiefs to throw at defenses. He lost some speed after he hurt his ankle this year, but there’s no reason to think he won’t be more effective next year. Arenas-see former Chief Kevin Ross’s career. McCluster-see Darren Sproles’career. Of course, there’s no shortage of other examples, but if you want to take a negative angle, by all means. The Chiefs could have gotten Arenas and McCluster and addressed some of the positions el cid mentioned through free agency last year. They didn’t. They should have. It would have helped, and we can only hope they don’t make the same mistake this year.

  • January 19, 2011  - el cid says:

    Michael, would like to have agree totally with you but Arenas is Ross, do not think so, a different time but Ross was toast his first start, think it was preseason, and afterward a stud, a hard hitter who would tear your head off. Do not see Arenas in that light, no way, no how. Will not argue Mc, except he was not included in the playoff game. Supposedly a Weis choice but the most important game, not included, strange? Might have been hurt, we will see in 2011.

    As for the last, I believe Pioli could/chose to fix what he was able. Take the two above, similar to 09 draft, Jackson and Magee, apparently needed DE so they are the guys. In 10 draft need returners, Mc and Arenas, seems to chose to get extras of a need. Same with TEs, Pioli has needs and he will do what he feels best to fill them, my opinion, not always the most effective way, but his choice.

  • January 20, 2011  - Michael says:

    I was comparing Ross and Arenas in stature, and the possiblity Arenas can have as long of a career. Whether Arenas can be as successful as Ross at Corner, only time will tell. Ross was a 7th round pick or thereabouts, and nobody knew how good he would be. I’m sure you’ll disagree, but I think Arenas was picked as a nickel corner first, and returner second, and that that is a very important position in defenses of today. McCluster was taken as a guy you can put all over the field, and make the other team react to him.

    I don’t always agree with what Pioli does, but I know he is a very, very smart and talented football man. I know he knows what he’s doing, and I think he’ll keep the Chiefs successful for a long time. Having said that, I’m still going to be pissed if he ignores free agency again. And I was right there with everyone else after the draft last year, scratching my head and asking where is the WR, NT, OT, LB? 2010 turned out great anyway, but the needs still exist. It will be interesting to see how Pioli and Haley go about addressing them for 2011. What I’m really interested to see is if he’ll take a WR or NT number one. I just can’t see him taking a WR at 1. And would the Chiefs really sink another number 1 in on the defensive line? It just seems like he’ll take a O Lineman or linebacker.

    You might as well get used to Pioli bringing in LBs and TEs. He and Belichik believe that’s where the best special teamers come from, and you can’t have too many around.

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