Reallocating Tyreek Hill’s workload to give him more offensive snaps and fewer plays on special teams meant the Chiefs would be replacing one of football’s most dynamic players with …
Another dynamic player.
De’Anthony Thomas returned a kickoff 95 yards for the Chiefs’ lone touchdown in a 26-13 preseason loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Friday.
“Our kickoff team made great blocks, and it was my job finding that seam and hitting it,” Thomas said.
Thomas has been a return specialist in his first three years with the Chiefs. But Hill in his rookie season reduced Thomas’ workload last season. No one questioned the move as Hill returned two punts and a kick for scores, leading the NFL in return touchdowns.
The idea headed into this season is to position Thomas as the team’s primary kick-return specialist, and his touchdown Friday came at an opportune moment.
The Chiefs opened the game with a field-goal drive. But the Seahawks scored the game’s next 13 points. Kansas City looked for a spark.
The kickoff was short. Thomas gathered it in at the 5-yard line and a hole opened up the middle. He juked Cyril Grayson Jr., around the 40, headed down the right sideline and into the end zone.
“I wanted to use my speed to get to the edge, and from there just finish it,” Thomas said.
Not only did the play give the Chiefs a boost, Thomas also needed something good to happen. On two previous kickoff returns, he muffed one, dropping it at the 1 and returning it to the 4, and made a poor decision to bring out another one. That return put the Chiefs at the 12.
On the bobble, Thomas said he may have been over-amped.
“I have to patient, I can’t be too excited,” Thomas said. “I’m just ready to get the ball in my hands.”
It was a part of a first half full of Chiefs misplays. Hill dropped a couple of Alex Smith passes; the Chiefs were called for three straight defensive penalties that kept alive a Seahawks’ touchdown drive; and Bennie Logan was flagged for lining up over the center on a field-goal attempt that missed. On the reprieve, Seahawks’ kicker Blair Walsh knocked it through.
Thomas provided the spark.
Later in the half, he came up with a tackle on a Seahawks punt return. Asked earlier in the week if the Chiefs had a player with more energy on the team than Hill, Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub didn’t hesitate to identify Thomas.
“Probably even higher energy than Tyreek, believe it or not,” Toub said. “I have said this before about him, he is pound-for-pound one of the toughest guys we’ve got.”
Thomas’ tackle on a kickoff return against the Bengals last week impressed Toub as much as any return.
“That thing goes for a touchdown if No. 13 is not there,” Toub said. “He has a nose for the football. He told me before the season, ‘I’m going to make all of the tackles on kickoff.’ You love guys like that.”
Toub said that Thomas, who is listed at 176 pounds “plays like a 200-pounder. He’s not afraid to stick his head in there and make tackles.”
Thomas appears a cinch to make the team as a reserve wide receiver — he caught a touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes last week — but primarily as a special-teams standout who can change momentum with one play as he did on Friday.
“I’m working my way up to being a spark on the special teams and motivating other guys to go out there and make plays,” Thomas said.