Every new season in the NFL brings new goals and expectations, including those of the Kansas City Chiefs special teams.
Dave Toub is entering year two as the Chiefs special teams coordinator and if his first year in the City of Fountains was any indication of success in 2014, Chiefs fans have strong reason for optimism.
The list below includes four of the accomplishments Toub described as those he is most proud of from his group in 2013.
1) Kickoff Returns
"We averaged 29.9 yards per return, which is something that the guys are really, really proud of. It was a record that was held for a very long time, since the 70's; it was good that we were able to break that."
2) Punt Coverage
"Dustin Colquitt finished number one with inside-the-20 punts. We only gave up 6.5 yards per return on punts. Punting is a big aspect of special teams now, especially with the de-emphasis of kickoff returns; so, punt returns are critical. You have to make your hay there in those two things and we feel like we did a good job there."
3) Protecting the Football
"We didn't have any turnovers last year, which was huge for a team, not to have any turnovers on special teams."
4) Points Scored
"We were number one in scoring. We scored 30 points last year, five touchdowns. We set the bar high last year and now we're going to have really lofty goals this year and going forward. It's going to be exciting"
The accomplishments above are a result of great coaching, but Toub refuses to take credit, instead praising his players for the 2013 success.
"Having good players, number one," Toub said of reasons for the Chiefs success. "Having a head coach that gives me a lot of time, as far as meeting and practice time, and then really, it's about timing and spacing on the field, making sure that the returner catches the ball coming forward and that the tandem in front of him is spaced a certain way and then that guys are sustaining blocks for a certain time. It all has to come together in the timing and spacing and then boom, all of a sudden, we pop one."
Toub spoke about two of his leaders that will help key the group's success in 2014.
"We got Frank Zombo and we got Husain Abdullah back," Toub said. "Both those guys are leaders for us, so I feel good about that going forward."
Both players expressed their excitement to return under coach Toub's teaching.
"Our special teams unit was a pleasure to be on," Zombo said. "Guys played with a lot of pride. It's awesome playing for coach Toub. I'd say he's the best special teams coach in the National Football League. I look forward to being a part of that group again."
"With coach Toub, that was one of the, since college, the best special teams units I've played for and was fun to play for," Abdullah said.
Players like Zombo and Abdullah each have the traits that Toub is looking for in building a dominant special teams phase.
"They want to make a difference on the special teams," Toub said. "We want to win games on special teams. The guys start buying in and want to be a part of it. You have starters that come to me and they want to be on a team. They want to be on the kickoff return team, because they're having so much success. Everybody just wants to make plays and just want to be a part of it, so that's really what happens with special teams. That's what we've tried to get going."
Look back at the Top Special Teams photos from the 2013 season.
The group's goals for 2014 serve as continual motivation, aiming to continually raise the bar.
"You can't set a goal lower than what you did the year before," Toub said. "It's something that the guys really look forward to. They're excited. We want to finish number one on special teams, overall. At the end of the year, we want to win a Super Bowl, obviously, but our game within the game is our special teams and we want to finish number one. Last year, we finished number three; so, we have that over our heads, too."
While timing and spacing are crucial for effective special teams play, there's really no substitute for the tireless work that each player is putting forth to make great things happen, both in the film room and on the field.
"Special teams is really all about effort," Toub said. "When we put on our tape, you can see our guys flying around and having fun doing what they do. They're enjoying themselves out there and that makes it so much better. When you see guys on tape flying around like that, that's what makes good special teams."
While Chiefs fans had fun watching the record-breaking play of the special teams last season, 2014 has all the makings of an equally-productive year, and then some.