KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- De’Anthony Thomas offers much to the Kansas City Chiefs as a punt returner. He has the quickness to make the initial defenders miss, an essential skill for this craft, and the speed to run away from tacklers once he gets into the open field.
His skills don’t matter much if he can’t hang on to the ball. That’s suddenly a question for Thomas, who was good about hanging on to the ball last season as a rookie.
Thomas has fumbled a return in each of the Chiefs’ two games. His fumble in last week’s game against Denver was recovered by the Broncos.
Special-teams coordinator Dave Toub indicated the Chiefs weren’t planning to replace Thomas.
“Last year he was solid,’’ Toub said. “He might have bobbled a couple but he came off a great year last year. We talk about just securing the football and making sure he makes the catch before he takes off. He got a little excited on one. He saw it was a clear, wide-open deal and he just didn’t finish the catch.
“He wants to make a play. If we’re blocking them up and he sees that it’s clear, he gets a little excited. He got excited on that one and didn’t finish the catch. He knows better. He’s an experienced guy now. He’ll make that correction.’’
Thomas missed most of the preseason because of a calf injury, so he had just one return under game conditions heading into the regular season. That could be a factor, but Toub said Thomas worked on returning kicks in practice even while he was injured.
The Chiefs have some options to Thomas as their punt returner. The most intriguing is Jeremy Maclin, who did the job well in college at Missouri and in limited chances earlier in his NFL career for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Chiefs continue to get Maclin work in practice as a returner. As long as he’s the Chiefs’ No. 1 wide receiver, he won’t be a regular punt returner.
But the Chiefs are trying to keep him sharp for a reason. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they use Maclin as their returner in an important situation.