KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The training camp practice field for the Kansas City Chiefs in the summer of 2013 was littered with kickoffs that Knile Davis fumbled, bumbled, mishandled, misjudged and just plain dropped. The Chiefs were trying to make Davis into a star kickoff return specialist and clearly they saw something in him that wasn’t evident to anyone else paying attention.
Credit belongs to the Chiefs now that Davis has emerged from that humbling start to become one of the NFL’s most dangerous kickoff returners. Davis delivered a big play at a crucial moment Sunday when he brought back the second half kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. It put the Chiefs ahead by 10 points in a game they would go on to win 34-7.
Special teams coach Dave Toub wouldn’t give up on Davis despite the early mishaps. Davis started to reward the Chiefs last season, when he returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown in a game against the Denver Broncos.
He further validated Toub’s faith on Sunday.
“Knile is big and strong and fast," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He hits it. You’ve got to have somebody that does that on kickoffs. You can’t have somebody back there that’s dancing. You have to have somebody that’s willing to see the hole and then go get it. He’s wired that way."
If the Chiefs can get the kind of big play on special teams they got against the Rams, they might be difficult to beat. They scored four special-teams touchdowns last season but had none this year until Davis had his return Sunday.
"This whole season we've been one of two blocks from getting in the end zone," Davis said. "Right before we took it, [Toub] said, 'We're overdue.'"
One look at the solidly built, 227-pound Davis and it’s easy to tell he has the power that Reid talked about. His speed is more of a surprise.
He put it on display on his touchdown return. He broke into the open around the Kansas City 40-yard line and then it became a footrace. Davis not only wasn’t caught, but he pulled away from the Rams who were chasing him.
“Our whole backfield can run," Davis said. “We can all flat outrun."
Returning kicks is a relatively new experience for Davis. He was not a return man in college at Arkansas, so he had much to learn last year after being drafted by the Chiefs in the third round. For instance, the Chiefs don't just want Davis to catch the ball when returning a kick but catch it with his momentum heading up the field. That was the difficult part for Davis. Among other flubs, he dropped a return in the fourth quarter of a game last season against the Dallas Cowboys with the Chiefs holding a slim lead.
But through sheer repetition, he was able to get it down.
“It was a matter of him securing the football on the kicks," Reid said. “He had never done that before. Toub overloaded him with an abundance of returns during [last year’s] training camp and [offseason practice] and saw he was improving. So he decided to go with him last year a little bit and then this year.
“Good things have happened.”