Dexter McCluster returns a punt for a touchdown, thanks to Andy Studebaker for paving the way in the 2010 opener against the San Diego Chargers.
Every since the Kansas City Chiefs traded away an aging Dante Hall, their return game has been very inconsistent. The Chiefs went through putting up with Eddie Drummond, Kevin Robinson, Dantrell Savage and Bobby Wade. None of them succeeded as a returner.
In 2012, the Chiefs are loaded with players who have experience in the return game and should find their new primary returner for the next few years. Not all of them will be great, but the Chiefs should figure out who they will have as their returner, or returners if the Chiefs want a different player for kickoffs and punts.
Since the start of the 2007 season, the Chiefs have had only two touchdowns off returns. As for total yards returned among the league, the Chiefs have been all over the charts.
2011 Kick Return: 20th
2011 Punt Return: 8th
2010 Kick Return: 31st
2010 Punt Return: 3rd
2009 Kick Return: 6th
2009 Punt Return: 27th
2008 Kick Return: 8th
2008 Punt Return: 30th
2007 Kick Return: 23rd
2007 Punt Return: 16th
Head coach Romeo Crennel will be working with special teams coaches Tom McMahon and Derius Swinton to figure out the right players that can help the Chiefs be good and remain consistent.
It is hard for teams to dominate in the kick return game since kickoffs are placed at the 35-yard line. But the Chiefs could still be one of the better teams in 2012. As far as punt returning goes, the Chiefs have a chance to not only be in the top 10 for the third straight season, but they should get a couple of scores as well.
Cyrus Gray was drafted in the sixth round this past offseason, and the Chiefs hope he can carry his speed and versatility to Kansas City.
While prepping at Texas A&M, Gray took back 99 kickoffs and zero punts. He scored a touchdown once in 2008 and 2009. He returned fewer kicks as his primary role as a running back expanded in 2010.
It is more than likely that Gray will be behind Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis at running back. This gives Gray a chance to focus more on special teams until he is needed to fill in for a running back.
Nate Eachus is not the hottest candidate to win this job, but the Chiefs should consider as many players possible for this job.
Eachus has returned the football on kickoffs, but not very much. While spending his time playing college football at Colgate, he took back three kickoffs for 56 yards in 2009. If he can use his speed to come away with more yards, he could be a player who sneaks his way into the 53-man roster.
Dexter McCluster earned roughly the same amount of kick returners in each of his two seasons with the Chiefs. He had 26 in 2010 and 25 in 2011 with his longest kick return being 36 yards during his first year with the team.
As a punt returner, McCluster had one of his 13 returns taken back for a touchdown during his NFL debut. A franchise-long 94-yard return helped the Chiefs defeat the San Diego Chargers in the first game of the 2010 season.
But since then, McCluster has not scored as a returner. McCluster has shown that he has the speed and the ability to play this position. With his speed, he needs to come away with bigger returns before the Chiefs consider another player for the job.
During his four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Steve Breaston was used a lot in the return game.
Breaston collected 3,105 yards off 102 kick returns and 113 punt returns while playing in Arizona. Although Breaston’s only touchdown return off a punt came during his rookie season, he managed to produce and set the Cardinals' offense up with good field position.
Breaston never started 13 games as a receiver and found himself getting more action than he usually does as a receiver. If Jonathan Baldwin stays focused and earns himself the No. 2 receiver position with the Chiefs, Breaston will move back to being a slot receiver and can focus more on returning punts.
He has returned a few punts during OTAs so far, and we may see him continue doing that in a couple of preseason games.
While spending five seasons at Fresno State, Devon Wylie was managed well in the return game.
In 2007 and 2008, he had 16 kick returns in total. From 2009-2011, Wylie stopped taking kickoffs back and began punt returning. His best season came in 2011 as a fifth-year senior where he had 40 returns for 446 yards and two touchdowns. His longest return went for 79 yards.
The Chiefs hope their fourth-round selection can help the team get some consistency on punt returns. Wylie has also spent time practicing punt returns during OTAs.
Javier Arenas was one of the most explosive and electrifying punt returners in college football from 2006 through 2009.
Arenas was a kick returner for Alabama, but he was most noticed as a punt returner. He had 166 returns for 1,752 yards and seven touchdowns.
However, he is trying to carry these numbers over to the NFL so he can continue succeeding as a returner.
Although Arenas averaged the third most yards in the league last year, he has not taken a punt back for more than 37 yards.
This could be his last chance as a punt returner with the Chiefs as more options are being explored this season.