When last season came to a close, Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos knew one thing was for sure: he’d better improve on kickoffs.
“They (made it) clear to me,” Santos said, referring to the coaching staff. “My field goals were good, but kickoffs were below the average.”
So Santos, whose touchback percentage of 32.5 ranked 32nd in the league — set out to get stronger so he could start booming those kickoffs through the end zone.
“It was one of the things we talked about when the season was over, was him gaining some weight and putting on some more muscle on his lower body, and I think he did a good job of that,” special teams coach Dave Toub said. “He’s definitely hitting the ball a lot better, it looks like he’s got five to six yards more of leg strength. So it’s paying off with the touchbacks.”
Indeed. Santos is now about 10 pounds heavier — he’s 176 pounds, up from 167, he said — and the effect as been palpable, as he’s drilled 10 of his 11 kicks for touchbacks through two games this season.
His touchback percentage of 90.9, by the way, ranks second in the league.
“This offseason, one of the biggest focuses I had was to add muscle and I did,” Santos said. “I gained about 10 pounds and lost some body fat so I feel leaner than last year and a little stronger.”
Santos said he worked on his lower body a great deal this offseason, which has made a difference in his kicking strength.
“Squats, a lot of squats, and jumps and lunges,” Santos said.
Santos said he’s also gotten more comfortable with the wind patterns at Arrowhead.
“You definitely get a different wind each way (you kick), but you can take advantage by going directional and kind of carrying that wind with your kick,” Santos said.
Toub said Santos’ hang time on his kicks — which matters because the coverage team needs time to get down there — is up to par, as well.
“Yeah, he’s hanging them up 4.2’s and plus, which is great and if they decide to come out with it eight-deep with a 4.2 hang time, we’ve got a real good shot of getting down the field,” Toub said.
But of course, the best thing Santos can do for the Chiefs is to simply keep banging those kickoffs through the end zone, which eliminates the possibility of a return.
“Anytime a team comes out with it, there’s always a chance that they could pop one,” Toub said. “If things go wrong — I mean, that’s why we come out with it, we try to put pressure on the kickoff team. Kickoffs that go out of the end zone, we’ll take every one of those. We love them.”