Special Teams Specialty

Posted Mar 6, 2010

Chiefs re-sign special teams standout Terrance Copper from unrestricted free agency

The Chiefs signed unrestricted free agent WR Terrance Copper this morning. On the surface, signing a receiver who caught just four passes in 2009 isn’t too much to get excited about (even with his 50-yard haul to open Kansas City’s runaway victory at Denver in the season finale). But for anyone who closely follows the Chiefs, the re-signing of Copper is significant.

Rookie K Ryan Succop and P Dustin Colquitt get most of the hype when it comes to the Chiefs special teams (there’s a dose of irony at its finest – hype and kickers in the same sentence), but Copper is also a vital part of the Chiefs special teams swagger. In fact, it’s generally believed that Copper was the biggest special teams component on the Chiefs 2009 roster outside the kickers.

Improvements across the board can be tough to discover for a four-win team, but Kansas City’s special teams were the exception in 2009. There is a long list of marked improvements, highlighted by a move from 29th (2008) to 12th (2009) in Rick Gosselin’s coveted NFL special teams rankings. Kansas City’s 17-spot jump marked the fourth-highest of any team in the league.

Copper didn’t see considerable offensive snaps in 2009, but when he did get on the field he produced. The special teams units are where Copper made his living, covering nearly every kick and blocking for nearly every special teams protection scheme a year ago. His 16 special teams tackles ranked second on the team behind rookie LB Jovan Belcher (17).

With Copper spearheading most of the specialty units, the Chiefs finished 2009 ranked among the NFL’s top-10 in eight key special teams categories. Specifically, the Chiefs tallied a league-high 22 downed punts in 2009 and placed fourth in net punting average (40.8 yards per punt). Copper was there for it all.

When it comes to a player performing the specific role asked of him by the coaching staff, there aren’t many players that produce much better than Copper. Representing Kansas City’s first unrestricted free agent signee of 2010, Copper’s 2009 role is obviously needed for another season.

The Chiefs also re-signed RB Jackie Battle yesterday (he's not considered an unrestricted free agent, but rather just a "free agent"), adding another lending hand to the special teams unit. Battle had been a significant part of the Chiefs coverage units prior to landing on injured reserve October 15th with a shoulder injury.

Offensively, Battle carried a similar role to the one in which Tim Castille served following Battle’s injury. The morphed role of versatile fullback/third-down halfback expanded in the Chiefs offensive game plan as the season went on.

Kansas City’s signing count currently stands at two since the league calender turned over on Friday morning. There will be more to come.

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