KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When an Achilles injury ended the season for Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley, it took away more than just one of the team’s starting wide receiver — it also robbed Kansas City of their backup kick holder behind punter Dustin Colquitt, and last week the team finally filled the gap on the depth chart with rookie Jehu Chesson.
“It came to (special teams coordinator) Dave Toub,” Colquitt said. “Dave was like, ‘We’ve got to do this.’ We were like, we hadn’t even thought about it.”
Conley followed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin as Colquitt’s backup. Turning to another receiver seemed to make sense. Chesson earned the first shot at the job, and performed well enough to win the role without a fight, Colquitt said.
“Jehu was really good at it coming right in, so he’s the guy,” Colquitt said. “I don’t think we’ve ever donned a guy in the first time he’s ever done it and said, yes, he’s our guy. So he’s in, he’s the guy. He’s good, he’s an athletic, he’s a student of the game so it came naturally to him.”
Chesson said he never held for kick before in a game.
“You always mess around kind of when it’s just you and the guys kind of around holding,” Chesson said. “Where ever they want me to play I’ll play. I’m just excited to be kind of thrown in the mix there. Obviously we have a holder, we know who our holder is. Dustin is a great guy. I just want to absorb everything he has to offer.”
Long snapper James Winchester said Chesson may have taken to the role quicker than even Maclin and Conley did.
“He did, of any of those guys he picked it up real well,” Winchester said. “I think all of those guys being receivers that catch the ball great, but it’s just from there, down and getting the hand off., hat’s what – if you haven’t done it – it’s different. He was a lot smoother than I thought he would be putting the ball down.”
The Chiefs don’t necessarily expect the emergency holder to get into advanced techniques such as spinning the laces, Colquitt said. He teaches Chesson to focus on catching the snap at the same point each time, relying on Winchester to deliver the snap where it needs to be positioned.
“(With) James normally I don’t have to fix a whole lot of snaps and stuff as far as that goes,” Colquitt said. “He usually gets the laces going. I just told Jehu that you just got to watch those laces going around and try to catch it at the same place every time then it’s consistent because he’s snapping the same ball every time.”
The only tricky part of holding for Butker involves leaning the ball at the right angle allowing the 6-foot-4 kicker to create the proper elevation for the kick.
“That’s the big thing with kickers, hitting the spot, getting the right line, then laces is icing on the cake,” Colquitt said.
Backup kick holder is an insurance policy no team hopes to cash but it’s still a must-need job. The Chiefs nearly had to turn to Conley earlier this year when former kicker Cairo Santos aggravated a groin injury during warmups against the Los Angeles Chargers. If Santos couldn’t extra points or field goals, Colquitt would serves as the team’s kicker, requiring his backup to hold.
That scenario raises an intriguing question. The backup holder normally practices with Winchester and the kicker, right now the right-footed Harrison Butker. Colquitt observes while offering coaching tips. But if an injury presses the left-footed Colquitt into duty, the backup holder must switch sides for the hold.
“We did some the last couple of years but we haven’t really done it this year,” Winchester said. “That’s an interesting one. We would, Cairo would switch around back in OTAs, we would kind of try it. We hadn’t done it this year.”
Colquitt said he planned to work with Chesson on holding for a left-footed kicker this week in practice.
“That’s something that we’re going to do this week is get a couple on the other side because it is a lot different,” Colquitt said. “You’re catching the back of the ball with a different hand.”
Colquitt knows well. In 2007 the Chiefs drafted left-footed kicker Justin Medlock to compete against right-footed incumbent Lawrence Tynes.
“So we had a competition where I was catching for Lawrence, then flipping catching for (Medlock),” Colquitt said. “It was like whoa. But it ended up doing well.”
The possibility that he might have to hold for Colquitt in an emergency hadn’t occurred to Chesson yet.
“Better learn fast,” he said with a smile.
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.