The Chiefs set out to become a faster football team this off-season. Rookie and free agent additions reflected that philosophy and, judging by the first 12 sessions here in St. Joe, improvement in that area has been achieved.
The need for speed was apparent for the Chiefs last year on both sides of the football. Often forgotten, however, is that a speed deprived roster carries over to the special teams units as well. There is more to becoming a better special teams unit than simply adding a few quick returners; field position is a huge part of the game too. This is where the coverage units kick in.
“We’ve got a nice injection of some young players; very talented people,” Colquitt said. “I know that there are going to be some punters in the AFC West calling me and asking me why we drafted some of those guys. It’s going to be fun and we’re going to be a much faster team this year.”
Not all of the young players covering kicks are rookies. Colquitt has also taken notice of the work that second-year WR
“Quinten Lawrence, I think watched a lot of film this off-season,” Colquitt commented. “He’s getting off the line really, really quick. He’s just dipping that shoulder and getting down the field. As a punter, that’s a big deal. It’s not necessarily the tackles that you have to make (as a gunner), but if you can just get between that jammer and the man catching the ball to create fair catches. That’s a big thing for us.”
The lines for gunner reps are long in St. Joseph and plenty of players are expected to get their shot to show off coverage speed this preseason. Faster definitely equals better for the Chiefs punt team, particularly with Colquitt making the rugby-style punt a more consistent part of his arsenal.
A rugby punt is about as anti-Colquitt as it gets. Instead of a typical high-arching boot with a tight spiral, the rugby-style kick is low and spins end-over-end. Throw in a field with an artificial surface and you can get some pretty lengthy bounces.
“Last year was my first full year in doing rugby punt all year long,” Colquitt said. “It can set up the defense a little bit more with inside-the-20 type of stuff. I’m just trying to master that and even use it in an open-field situation to try and get it to hang up and use the wind. When you do something like the rugby punt, you have to focus on the regular punt because that’s a completely different drop. I’m just focused on fundamentals right now.”
Colquitt also says that an increase in team speed helps make rugby punts more effective.
“It’s kind of like a pitch and catch thing with the return guys,” Colquitt said. “If you have really fast gunners, you can get down there and cover. With a coffin corner you see a lot of touchbacks or misses and shanks. Rugby punting is a little different; I wouldn’t say safer, but it’s a better punt when you’re trying to set up for the defense. When it comes to having the ball at 11 positions or so in a game, it’s important to create a long field.”
The rugby-style punt just hit college football’s mainstream within the past two years. Now, some of the up-and-coming punters are exclusively rugby-style players. Colquitt, on the other hand, is a traditionalist trying to perfect a second craft. He’s hoping that a pairing of the two will offer the Chiefs an advantage in 2010.
“If you can do rugby and combine that with long punts, you will have a return guy who doesn’t know if you are going to go long or end-over-end or knuckle ball,” Colquitt said. “The more that you have in your bag the better, especially when you face you’re Reggie Bush’s or whoever.”
Rugby Runners…look for it on the Chiefs special teams in 2010.