After five seasons with an offensive minded coach, the Chiefs brought in Herm Edwards, and the anticipation of an improved defensive unit is high. But he's not the only Chief looking to help the defense.
Kicker Lawrence Tynes is aiming to be one of the defense's best friends this season. The Chiefs were sub-par last season in the kickoff game, which is huge when you consider how many times they scored. The Chiefs gave up several big returns and ranked 18th in the NFL in opponent's starting position. Tynes' averaged just 60.9 yards per kickoff, and the Chiefs recorded only two touchbacks.
Edwards and new special teams coach Mike Priefer are out to change things, and Tynes and the kicking scheme are the keys. Tynes can aid the defense if he's set free to do what he does best.
"There's a different scheme as far as how (Priefer) wants the ball kicked," Tynes said. "I'm not giving anything away, but we're going to do something that's my strength. We did some things last year that weren't my strength, we did them to try to outwit the return team, but for whatever reason, it didn't work. He's just going on my strengths and I know what they are, and Herm knows what they are, and it's going to help me out."
Tynes' big leg is his major strength. He beat out the great Morten Andersen two seasons ago after the Chiefs got tired of Andersen struggling to kick field goals past 40 yards. Tynes' big kicks were a breath of fresh air, and he also has the ability to consistently kick the football deep on kickoffs.
Last season, the Chiefs' kicking scheme somewhat robbed Tynes of his leg strength. Dick Vermeil and former special teams coach Frank Gansz, Jr. asked Tynes to angle his kicks, sending the ball to a corner. Their goal was to give the coverage units an advantage, but that took away from Tynes' ability to kick the ball deep. His main concern was aiming to a point on the field, and he couldn't let loose on the football because of it.
"You want a coach who says, ‘Bang away, we'll cover it, it's our job to cover it,'" Tynes said. "When you start aiming, like anything, you've got to take a little power off it…coach Priefer says grip it and rip it, and we'll cover it. That's a positive for me."
Tynes now has peace of mind knowing he can go out and just unload on the football, which should result in longer kicks. His only goal is to get the ball as far down the field as possible.
Not only has the new coaching staff changed Tynes' approach, but they've also changed the way he prepares. During the Vermeil era, special teams' periods were in the middle of practices, resulting in idle time for Tynes and the coverage units. Edwards has shifted the team's focus, and now the Chiefs hold their special teams' periods at the beginning of practice. The result is a kicker who is better prepared, sharper and happier.
"In years past, we'd warm up, we'd kick, then we'd wait another 45 minutes," said Tynes. "With Herm, we're going to get good work done. We're going to stretch, kick and we'll be ready to go and get all our special teams knocked out. They might throw a hurry-up field goal in there, but I'll know about it."
If the Chiefs can improve the kicking game, the defense will have a longer field to defend, forcing opposing offenses to mount longer drives. Last season, field position was a major factor in the Chiefs defensive woes. This season, it can be a major factor in improving the defense.
Tynes Can Help The Defense
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