Chiefs-Raiders matchup No. 2: Demps/McCluster vs. Jones
Chiefs punt returner Dexter McCluster has 631 return yards and two touchdowns in 13 games this season. (AP)
Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Chiefs-Raiders matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m., at Oakland Coliseum.
Chiefs KR Quinton Demps vs. Raiders Gunner Taiwan Jones
[RELATED: Matchup No. 3: Stephenson vs. Houston]
Tale of the tape:
Demps (35): 5-foot-11, 208 pounds, fifth season, Texas-El Paso
Jones (22): 6-foot-0, 197 pounds, third season, Eastern Washington
Kickoffs never get returned anymore. Recent NFL rule changes have seen to that, making it easier to drive kicks deep into or out of the end zone.
The Kansas City Chiefs are one of a few teams near-perfecting a soon-to-be lost art. The Chiefs lead the NFL with 30.5 yards per return.
Kansas City can also return a punt, although Dexter McCluster is out with an ankle infection. That should create greater opportunity for kickoff returners Quinton Demps and Knile Davis, who are dangerous in their own right. The Chiefs have four return touchdowns. Three have come within the last two weeks.
Davis returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown Dec. 1 versus Denver. Demps brought one 95 yards back Sunday against Washington and McCluster returned a punt from 75 yards away in the same game.
Though McCluster is out, the Chiefs have enough talent to keep the return game going.
“When you have explosive returners like that, I think there’s a little bit of a sense of urgency from the guys up front to block for them, because they know at any point in time they could spring one,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “We have to make sure we’re on point because returns are the type of thing that can turn a game around.”
The Raiders have three big weapons to combat a quality return game. They have Sebastian Janikowski, who, despite his struggles converting field goals, is an excellent kickoff man. He has 34 touchbacks in 61 tries and drives it into the end zone almost every time.
They have punter Marquette King who has a booming leg and the benefits that come with it.
“It’s all about hang time,” King said. “That gives the coverage guys a chance to go make a tackle.”
That brings us to weapon No. 3. Taiwan Jones ranks among the league’s best cover men, routinely stopping returns as the first man downfield.
Those athletes have helped the Raiders play well in coverage, allowing 21.5 yards per kickoff return and 10.6 yards per punt. That last number is skewed slightly by an 87-yard punt return for touchdown by Houston.
The Raiders can’t have that lapse against Kansas City. If they can repeat an Oct. 13 performance when they allowed 5.3 yards per punt return and a kickoff never came out of the end zone (albeit in a low-scoring game).
“We have to do a great job with our coverage units,” Allen said, “and take their returners out of the game.”