Kansas City Chiefs: De'Anthony Thomas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs plan to expand the role of injured running back Jamaal Charles at practice Thursday as they begin preparations for Monday night's game against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium.

Charles, who injured an ankle two weeks ago, was a limited practice participant on Thursday and Friday last week but didn't play in Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.

Plans for two other injured players, safety Eric Berry and running back/kick returner De'Anthony Thomas, aren't as clear. Coach Andy Reid indicated on Monday that Berry and Thomas would "most likely" practice this week, but both appear less than certain to work Thursday. Berry, who also has a sprained ankle, was injured in the loss to Denver two weeks ago. Thomas, who has a strained hamstring, hasn't played in any of he three regular-season games. He practiced last week on Wednesday, but the Chiefs then shut him down for the week.

The Chiefs thrived without the three players against the Dolphins. At running back, Knile Davis ran for 132 yards and a touchdown and Joe McKnight caught two touchdown passes. Frankie Hammond Jr. had 100 yards on five punt returns. Berry was replaced by Ron Parker and the Chiefs' defense had its best game of the season.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's no surprise since they left last week's game in Denver in the first half and never returned, but running back Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry will not practice for the Kansas City Chiefs Wednesday.

Charles has a high ankle sprain, Berry a sprained ankle.

But De'Anthony Thomas is scheduled to practice and play in Sunday's game against the Dolphins in Miami. Thomas missed the season's first two games because of a strained hamstring.

"I've been waiting for this moment my whole life to play in my first NFL game," said Thomas, a rookie running back and receiver who was drafted in the fourth round. "It's my time to make plays and contribute to this offense."

The likely loss of Charles would be partially offset by the return of Thomas, who is world-class fast. The Chiefs lined him up in a variety of places during training camp in search of the proper matchups.

Thomas is also the Chiefs' top punt returner. He brought one back 80 yards for a touchdown in a preseason game against Cincinnati.

"Another weapon, another playmaker," quarterback Alex Smith said. "The more of those you present to a defense, the harder you are to defend."

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Expect another heavy workload for Knile Davis this weekend. Rookie De'Anthony Thomas might be available for the first time in his NFL career, but Jamaal Charles is unlikely to play for the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday when they play the Dolphins in Miami.

Coach Andy Reid said Charles has a high ankle sprain, and though Reid didn’t rule him out of the Dolphins’ game, he would probably need more recovery time before he’s ready to play.

"These things take time, but it doesn’t look to be a real severe one," Reid said. "What does that mean? We’ll see."

Charles was injured in the first quarter of Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Broncos in Denver. He was replaced by Davis, who led the Chiefs in rushing with 79 yards on 22 carries. He also was the team leader in pass receptions with six and scored both of the Chiefs' touchdowns.

"I don’t think it will change much from what you saw (Sunday)," Reid said of Davis' likely role in Miami. "He was involved in a lot of different areas. I’m not saying number of carries or anything, but you saw him going in and playing a few different ways."

Thomas, the Chiefs’ fourth-round draft pick, has yet to suit up for a regular-season game because of a sore hamstring. Reid held out some hope he could play in Miami.

"He should be able to work himself back in this week," Reid said. "We’ll just see how he does once we get to Wednesday."

The Chiefs begin their practice week on Wednesday.

Safety Eric Berry also sprained an ankle in the Denver game. Reid indicated that injury wasn’t as severe as Charles' injury.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- De'Anthony Thomas' NFL debut will likely have to wait until Week 2, or possibly later. The Kansas City Chiefs listed Thomas as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans because of a sore hamstring.

The Chiefs are already missing suspended wide receiver Dwayne Bowe for the Titans game.

Thomas' loss might hurt most as the punt returner. Frankie Hammond Jr. should get most or all of the work there on Sunday.

But the Chiefs also will miss Thomas on offense, where he was lining up as both a receiver and running back. His absence could mean more plays on offense for Junior Hemingway, Albert Wilson, A.J. Jenkins and Knile Davis.

Starting cornerback Marcus Cooper (ankle) was listed as questionable for Sunday's game. If Cooper doesn't play, Ron Parker would move into the starting lineup. Rookie Phillip Gaines, who looked lost in last week's preseason game, would also move up on the depth chart and the Chiefs might have to play him at least a few snaps if Cooper doesn't play.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rookie De'Anthony Thomas has a sore hamstring and won't practice Thursday for the Kansas City Chiefs. His availability was unclear for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium.

"We really don't know how bad it is or how long it will be," coach Andy Reid said.

Replacing Thomas isn't as easy as plugging in the next guy in line. Thomas is unique in the Chiefs' offense in that he lines up on various occasions in different spots: slot receiver, wide receiver and as a running back.

If he can't go against the Titans, several players would be more prominent in the Chiefs' offensive plans, including Junior Hemingway, Albert Wilson, Joe McKnight and A.J. Jenkins. But none of those players is as fast as Thomas.

Thomas is the Chiefs' punt returner as well, and the team would also like to use him as a change of pace from Knile Davis on kickoff returns.

Frankie Hammond Jr., Wilson or McKnight would replace Thomas as a punt returner.

"We've got a lot of guys that can do it," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "If that's the case, I think we'll be fine. The good thing is it's not severe. He'll be back."

Starting cornerback Marcus Cooper also won't practice because of a sore ankle, though Reid held out hope he would play against the Titans. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Ron Parker.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The punt that rookie De’Anthony Thomas returned 80 yards for a touchdown in the Kansas City Chiefs’ preseason opener last week guarantees him nothing when the regular season begins on Sept. 7 against Tennessee.

 But in the bigger picture, it’s not meaningless that Thomas, returning a punt for the first time in an NFL game, scored a touchdown. That kind of thing can provide benefits for the Chiefs and Thomas on Sept. 7 and beyond.

“It’s very meaningful for him,’’ special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “He’s a rookie. He went in there, and he showed a lot of courage. Those are the things we wanted to see. He showed a lot of courage catching the ball. He took a good hit and still held on to the ball, didn’t go down, kept his balance. Once he’s able to get in the open field you can see how dangerous he is.

“It was good for everybody’s confidence. It’s going to lift us up. Guys will block even harder next time.’’

The Chiefs, in their first season with Toub as their coordinator, established themselves in 2013 as among the league’s best teams in the kicking game. They scored four touchdowns on kick returns and set an NFL record for average kickoff return.

Already, they’re serving notice that won’t change. Thomas is replacing Dexter McCluster, who made the Pro Bowl last year as a punt returner but moved to the Titans as a free agent.

The Chiefs will use Knile Davis as their main kickoff return specialist. But another rookie, Albert Wilson, had a 65-yard kickoff return in last week’s game.

The immediate success of two rookie kick returners makes it look like the Chiefs can plug anyone into those spots and fare well. That’s an oversimplification, but it is true that Toub seems to have the magic touch with returners.

Before joining the Chiefs, he coached special teams for the Chicago Bears for nine seasons. The Bears scored 22 touchdowns on kick returns in that time, and they weren’t all the work of Devin Hester -- but six different players.

There’s no question that in Kansas City, Thomas and Davis are talented kick returners. That’s particularly true for Thomas, who can make the first defender miss and showed his world-class speed on last week’s touchdown.

But with Toub as their coach, the Chiefs might have a good return specialist no matter who they put back there to shag the kicks.
The prudent thing at that point for Kansas City Chiefs rookie De'Anthony Thomas would have been to call for a fair catch. Thomas was getting his first chance in an NFL game to return a punt, but he had to roam a fair distance just to make the catch. So Thomas was being advised by at least one teammate from the sideline to wave his raised hand and surrender this one.

[+] EnlargeDe'Anthony Thomas
AP Photo/Colin E. BraleyDe'Anthony Thomas runs to the end zone for a touchdown on a kickoff return in the first half of Thursday's preseason game in Kansas City.
"I know I was screaming 'fair catch' from the sideline," quarterback Alex Smith said. "Then I was like, 'OK.'"

Thomas, a fourth-round draft pick from Oregon, has the speed to turn every negative in a positive. He took a jolt upon catching the ball when a Cincinnati Bengals player bumped into him but Thomas kept his feet.

From there, he used his world-class speed to score an 80-yard touchdown on the first return of his career, albeit in a preseason game.

"He does that every day," Smith said. "He kind of knows only one speed. We kind of joke about that. Even during a walk-through he's going 100 miles an hour."

If it wasn't obvious before the Bengals game, it is now that Thomas is going to be the Chiefs' punt returner when the regular season starts. But the Chiefs have to find ways to get Thomas involved on offense, too. He's been lining up at a various times as a running back, slot receiver and wide receiver.

But if Thomas only excels as a returner, he's nothing more than Dexter McCluster was. McCluster left as a free agent this year and is the player Thomas was drafted to replace.

McCluster was a good return specialist for the Chiefs but mostly a disappointment on offense. The Chiefs then, as now, are desperate for an offensive playmaker to complement Jamaal Charles, and Thomas is a logical candidate to be that player.

It's worth noting the Chiefs at a similar point of McCluster's career were excited about the possibilities he could bring to their offense. So it's premature to declare Thomas an offensive savior. He got the ball once on offense against the Bengals, a three-yard carry.

But he's off to a good start.

"This is only the first game," Thomas said. "There (are) a lot more games to prove to people what kind of player I am."
As NFL offenses continue to evolve and the passing game takes on more prevalence, the running back is losing his value. No back has been selected in the first round of the draft in the past two years.

That trend hasn’t reached Kansas City and the Chiefs, at least when it comes to the value of the featured back. The Chiefs celebrate their backs, who are as important as ever to Kansas City’s offensive fortunes.

 The Chiefs realize this. They recently gave a contract extension to running back Jamaal Charles, who led the Chiefs in rushing, pass receiving and touchdowns last season. Despite the presence of Charles, the Chiefs drafted a running back in each of the past three years and two of them, Knile Davis and rookie De’Anthony Thomas, join Charles as Kansas City’s preeminent big-play threats.

The Chiefs will wind up cutting at least one back or perhaps two who could play for other teams, Cyrus Gray and Joe McKnight.

So excuse Charles if he takes offense at the notion that running backs just aren’t as important as they once were.

 “I don’t think it’s changed,’’ he said. “I think it depends on what style of running back you have. You can have a power back, [but] there are a lot of power backs [who] can’t catch the ball. Or you can have a skilled back [who] is an athlete, can run and catch the ball like a wide receiver. I think that can bring the game back.

“I think running back is the most important [position] on the field because we pick up the blitz, we run the ball, and we catch the ball. So I think we do more than the wide receivers, O-line, and maybe the quarterback. So I think the running back job is really important.”

Charles’ role was even important for the Chiefs in last year’s preseason opener against the Saints in New Orleans. He got the ball eight times, five times on a handoff and three as a receiver and scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run.

But that was the Chiefs' first season under Andy Reid, and they were still trying to find themselves an identity. Charles may not get as much work Thursday night when the Chiefs open their preseason, this time at Arrowhead Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“Whatever the coaches do, I’m all with it,’’ Charles said. “If I have to play, I have to play. It’s my job to play football.

“Whatever the coaches think I need . . . I guess I’ve got to go out there and do it. I can’t complain. I’m not going to be selfish. I’m going to do what they tell me.’’
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Dave Toub has been fortunate to work with some great return specialists in his years as a special-teams coach. Toub has another such candidate this year in Chiefs rookie De’Anthony Thomas.

Thomas is fast and quick but has more going for him than that as a punt returner.

“His ability to make the first person miss, he’s got that,’’ said Toub, whose returners over the years have included Devin Hester in Chicago. “It’s the same thing Devin Hester had. The thing we need to work on with [Thomas] right now is his catching and his ball reads. You’ll see him in practice occasionally have to run late to make a catch. It’s just a matter of him seeing the ball where it’s going to be and have the ball chase him and not him chase the ball.’’

The presence of Thomas and Knile Davis as their leading kickoff returner has the Chiefs thinking they can match or surpass the four kick return touchdowns they scored last season. Davis returned one kickoff for a touchdown, as did Quintin Demps. Dexter McCluster scored twice on punt returns.

Demps and McCluster now play for other teams, but the Chiefs are in a good spot with the addition of Thomas. He had five returns for a touchdown in his three collegiate seasons at Oregon.

While Davis will be the main kickoff returner, the Chiefs plan to use Thomas there on occasion.

“There might be a situation where you might have Knile and him in the game at the same time and have a special return designed specifically for De’Anthony,’’ Toub said. “He can do a lot of different things that Knile can’t. Knile is more of a power, speed, straightahead [runner]. That fits our scheme but you can do other things with De’Anthony.’’

Today we’re continuing a series looking at the six 2014 draft picks of the Kansas City Chiefs. We’ll look at how they fared in offseason practice and what the Chiefs can reasonably expect from them as rookies.

Fourth round: RB/WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas

Offseason: Thomas participated in a three-day rookie camp to start the offseason practice and a three-day full-squad camp to finish it. He missed the 10 practices in between because of NFL rule prohibiting players whose college was still in session from participating, as Oregon was. But he had regular Skype sessions with Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bieniemy to review the playbook. While on the field, Thomas played, as he put it, “a little bit of everywhere.’’ He lined up in a variety of spots, returned punts and kickoffs and showed the speed that made him a star at Oregon.

Expectations: The Chiefs are making an effort to get Thomas involved and need to find a way to put his speed to use. But he’s only 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, so there’s a limit on how much they can expect to get from Thomas. At a minimum, he should be the kickoff and punt returner, where he should excel immediately.

Quote: “He’s just an explosive playmaker. He’s got worldclass speed. He ran track on the Oregon track team up there, which is one of the better programs in the country. He’s the alltime leading punt return average guy in Oregon school history. He’s got the most kick return yards in school history. In addition to that, he’s averaged over 6 yards a carry as a running back. I think with his speed, his explosiveness in the open field, I think there’s a variety of ways we can find a way to use him on both offense and special teams.” -- Chiefs scout Trey Koziol.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rookie De'Anthony Thomas hasn’t been a constant at Kansas City Chiefs' offseason practice, which concludes Thursday. He had to skip 10 of their 16 practices because of NFL rules prohibiting players from participating while their college was still in session, as Oregon was until last week.

But Thomas has been around enough to flash his speed, which is world class. The Chiefs have used Thomas at running back, as a wide receiver and as a kickoff and punt returner, or as Thomas said, “a little bit of everywhere.’’

The Chiefs need to put that speed to good use. There’s a limit to how much they can play Thomas, who at 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds probably isn’t the most durable player around. In his first practice in the true heat of a Kansas City summer this week, Thomas couldn’t cope and had to leave the field early.

At a minimum, the Chiefs need to use Thomas as their return specialist. He’s the best they have. On offense, they should be able to pick their spots and get him the ball a few times every game. Though he had to miss a majority of offseason practice, he would Skype regularly while he was gone with running backs coach Eric Bieniemy to review practice video and go over his assignments.

If the Chiefs can get the ball to Thomas just 10 times a game, they should see the reward.
The Kansas City Chiefs begin their three-day minicamp on Tuesday. Here are three things I'll be looking for:
  • The full-squad debut of De'Anthony Thomas. The Chiefs' fourth-round draft pick, Thomas hasn't been able to practice since the rookie camp shortly after the draft. Classes had still been in session at Oregon, where Thomas went to college, and NFL rules prohibited him from working with the Chiefs. That ban is now over and it will be interesting to see how Andy Reid utilizes Thomas' speed in the offense. He lined up in a variety of spots during rookie camp, including wide receiver, slot receiver and running back. He also should get a turn as the kickoff and punt returner.
  • The return of Travis Kelce. Another player who could provide an offensive boost, Kelce also hasn't practiced this spring. He had knee surgery last year, missing all of the season, and has been rehabbing, but Reid held out some hope Kelce could get some work this week. That's good news for the Chiefs, who other than Thomas added no significant new offensive skill players. Kelce is a tight end, but also lined up in a variety of spots before his injury last year. He showed then the ability to get down the field to beat coverage and make plays.
  • Life without Brandon Flowers. The Chiefs have been practicing without Flowers all spring but there was always the sense that having Marcus Cooper in the starting lineup was a temporary thing. The spot is Cooper's now and there doesn't appear to be anyone who can challenge him for the job. Ron Parker, who has been getting recent snaps in the starting lineup, has been beaten several times. Rookie Phillip Gaines, a third-round pick, doesn't look like he's ready to help yet.
Here is this week's edition of the Kansas City Chiefs mailbag. To ask a question for a future edition, send it to me via Twitter (@adamteicher) and tag it #ChiefsMail.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Fourth-round draft pick De'Anthony Thomas received a lot of work at the recently concluded Kansas City Chiefs rookie camp at both running back and receiver. Thomas will have to make that work last. School is still in session at Oregon and under NFL rules, Thomas can't participate with the Chiefs again until the academic quarter is finished in early June.

The Chiefs will begin full-squad offseason practice on Tuesday without Thomas. They aren't expecting to have him again until they conclude their offseason schedule with a three-day minicamp beginning on June 17.

"All the other guys (are going to be) here getting (their) work in,'' Thomas said. "But you know me. I feel like I've also been putting in my work, training and just getting ready to be here.''

Thomas can overcome his absence but he will lose 10 practices, so this could well be a setback for both him and eventually the Chiefs. Thomas is fast and the Chiefs would like to work him into their lineup quickly at whatever position they feel he best fits. He's bound to be behind when he returns in mid-June and, more importantly, when training camp begins in July.

"He and (running backs coach) Eric Bieniemy work closely every day and go over stuff either by Skype or however they work it,'' coach Andy Reid said. "He's actually holding on to what we've given him pretty good."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some observations from the second day of the Kansas City Chiefs' rookie camp:

-- The Chiefs continued to utilize De'Anthony Thomas in a variety of spots but he received more work as a wide receiver than he did on Saturday. Thomas, a fourth-round draft pick, still lined up plenty of times as a running back. Though he could get some work there when the regular season begins, I still don't see how the Chiefs will get much out of him as a running back. First, the Chiefs are loaded there with Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. Life is also not just difficult for 5-9, 175-pound running backs, but also the teams that utilize them. Until such a time comes that the Chiefs move Thomas to receiver full-time, running backs coach Eric Bieniemy will work Thomas hard. Bieniemy yelled at Thomas to finish on several plays Thomas thought were over. Bieniemy did the same thing with other backs, but not as often as with Thomas.

-- Similarly, the Chiefs are trying to figure out where offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif best fits. He worked at left guard in this practice after spending his time at right tackle on Saturday. Duvernay-Tardif, a sixth-round draft pick who played in college at Canada's McGill University, has the athletic skills to play either position.

-- One of the developmental veterans participating in camp is wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr., who has made several nice catches. Hammond is fast and would challenge for a roster spot with a strong training camp. Hammond joined the Chiefs last year as an undrafted rookie and spent all season on the practice squad.

-- The numbers are in on the contract signed by fifth-round quarterback Aaron Murray. Murray's four-year contract is worth $2,402,424. He received a signing bonus of $182,424.