For most Duck fans, watching De’Anthony Thomas scorch a return defense for a TD is nothing new. The speedy RB has struggled to find playing time behind Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis out in Kansas City, but Thomas has settled in quite nicely as the Chiefs’ primary return man. The rookie is averaging nearly 32 yards per kickoff return, which, once he returns a few more to meet the qualifying No. of 15 (he has 12), his numbers will be good for best in the league.
Coming into today, Thomas had a combined 32 returns, but none of them had broken for a TD. On his second return of the day, against the Oakland Raiders, Thomas took this punt 81-yards to the end zone.
As you can see, Thomas doesn’t do anything special. He doesn’t break tackles, he doesn’t spin past defenders, and he doesn’t hurdle any one. He simply out runs them. The Chiefs are known for drafting athletes who played one position and then plugging them in to a new place where they see fit. Sure, Thomas might be too small to play the RB position in the NFL, but his elite speed makes him one of the most dangerous returners in the league. He’d shown flashes of his big-play ability in the preseason, like when he returned this punt for a TD in the Chiefs’ first preseason game.
Thomas still has a ways to go before he takes over as the lead returner in KC. The Chiefs’ backup RB Davis still commands the majority of the kickoff duties, whereas Thomas takes the majority of punts. Although Thomas might have a ways to go before he fully gains the trust of the Chiefs’ organization, continuing to perform the way he has will no doubt merit serious competition between Davis and Thomas in the future.
Top photo from Craig Strobeck