As an assistant head coach and special teams coordinator, Dave Toub has to keep his head on a swivel at every Kansas City Chiefs training camp practice.
Toub had an answer for every player he was asked about, regardless of their position.
Tremon Smith? A nice move from corner to running back. Mecole Hardman? Impressive but young. Harrison Butker? A hard working, analytical kicker. Even if a player wasn’t qualified as a part of the special teams unit, Toub knew what he saw in them. And this is only his second year as an assistant head coach.
Toub joined the Chiefs in 2013 strictly as the special teams coordinator.
Since, he has created a dynasty of players — including Butker, punter Dustin Colquitt and this year’s addition of punter Jack Fox.
“Jack, he’s got a strong leg, he’s got an NFL leg,” Toub said. “You’ll see like two or three punts out of five he’ll bomb them 5-0 hang time, but it’s the one miss that we’ve got to get taken away. His consistency is not there yet, but he’s continued the work.”
Toub said kicking coach Kevin O’Day is in town volunteering to work with FOX.
On the punt return side of the game, Toub said the goal is to get wide receiver Tyreek Hill fewer reps but not to take him out of the return team completely.
“I don’t think we want to be in a situation where we’re gonna take Tyreek out. We always want to have that threat that we’re going to have Tyreek back there,” Toub said.
Hill will need a replacement if he is getting fewer reps, and Toub said the Chiefs have been keeping a close eye on rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman.
Hardman has been taking reps at the beginning of practice since OTAs off the jug machine, and Toub said he is improving every day.
“Mecole, he’s a work in progress. We’ve got four preseason games that we have to see him in,” Toub said. “We don’t know how he’s gonna react when the live bullets are coming down there. He’s still getting better and better every day with his catching, and he’s gotta build confidence in himself and we have to build confidence in him.”
The kick returners also have been in question since Hill is becoming more focused strictly on offense. Toub mentioned wide receiver Byron Pringle, who is entering his second season with the Chiefs, as a possible fit.
Pringle was hurt during the last preseason game of 2018 and was put on the injured reserve list for the rest of the season.
“Pringle was a guy — kick returner — who at the end of last year before he got hurt was really coming on,” Toub said. “He almost made the team before he got hurt, so he’s a guy we’re gonna really look hard at.”
Toub also said wide receiver Demarcus Robinson has the potential to become a kick returner as well.
“We’ve got a lot of returners, so we’re fortunate in that way,” Toub said.
Rookies have memorable performances
The Chiefs rookies have been all the talk by many at Chiefs training camp.
Wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who left practice early with an illness, according to the Chiefs, had a strong performance when he was given opportunities. He had several connections with star quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, one of which Mahomes scrambled and threw 60 yards while off balance.
“As (Hardman) picks up the offense, he kind of understands where he needs to go on each route, he’s able to recognize coverage based on stuff we’re doing — maybe pre-snap or post-snap — but that’s stuff he’s picking up with every rep he’s getting,” Mahomes said.
Toub said several of the rookies have been impressive early on in this camp. Tight End John Lovett impressed Toub early, especially considering he came in as a quarterback.
“The first guy that stands out in my mind is Lovett. He’s a guy that’s doing well on offense — he’s catching the ball, he’s learning stuff,” Toub said. “Obviously he’s a smart guy — he went to Princeton — he comes out and he doesn’t make mistakes mentally, and I think he’s got the speed and we’re gonna find out about the toughness when the preseason games come up.”
Several other rookies, including defensive back Juan Thornhill and defensive tackle Khalen Saunders, also have been impressive.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill returned to the field after a few days off to recover from a bruised quad. Hill collided with Bashaud Breeland during Wednesday’s practice and limped off the field afterwards.
Offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz returned to practice Friday morning as well. The lineman has been out since Monday when he left practice early with back spasms. There seemed to be no serious concern for Schwartz’ week-long absence, and he hopped right back in to practice on Friday without any apparent problems.
The remaining three injured players are wide receiver Gehrig Dieter (back), safety Jordan Lucas (hamstring) and running back Damien Williams (hamstring spasms.)
Hardman left practice early but was not injured. The Chiefs said he left early because he was ill.
The Chiefs are set to continue preseason practices at Missouri Western this morning at 8:15 a.m. Admission is $5 for Family Fun Day.