With the 2020 NFL season set to kick off just a few months from now, the Kansas City Chiefs will look to improve upon a surprisingly down year in 2019 for its special teams unit. The team moved on from long time punter Dustin Colquitt. Now following an interview with Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub, Chiefs fans are wondering what is next for second year man Mecole Hardman. Will Mecole Hardman get a chance to redeem himself from punt return struggles in 2019, and become the returner we hoped he would be heading into last season?
Hardman was not awful in 2019, and showed flashes of greatness averaging 26.1 yards per return on kickoffs in a year that was highlighted by a 104 yard kickoff return touchdown. His struggles were more visible on punt returns where he averaged only 9.3 yards per return on 18 attempts, with his longest return being only 36 yards. These numbers would be acceptable for some special teams coordinators, but not Dave Toub. Hardman’s numbers were underwhelming compared to previous returners under Toub in Kansas City. Unfortunately for Mecole, he may not get a chance to redeem himself based on these comments made by Dave Toub.
- Via James Palmer of NFL Network
If Toub’s concerns become reality we will see yet another kick returner with promise lose his opportunity to prevent injury. Since Hardman is in line for an increased role in the offense as a WR, this move does make sense based on past history under Reid in KC. The same thing happened with Tyreek Hill, who was more efficient and more productive than Hardman on special teams.
- Via Terez Paylor Senior NFL Reporter for Yahoo Sports
Do not be shocked to see #13, Byron Pringle, back deep on special teams in 2020. Pringle was productive as a returner in college at Kansas State, and we saw development last year in every aspect of his game. This led to him becoming an all-around contributor on special teams for Coach Toub in 2019. He would be the favorite, in my opinion, to take over for Hardman in both the kick and punt return responsibilities.
- Via K-State Football
In conclusion, the window for Hardman as the special team’s unit’s primary kick and punt returner may have just been slammed shut by coach Andy Reid in an attempt to prevent an injury for his up and coming offensive weapon. This is a sad reality, but the era of Mecole Hardman as an elite returner in KC was just never going to be possible. He is too valuable as a WR to risk injury, which was also the case with Tyreek Hill. It was too good to be true from the start, but it says a lot about the team’s plans for Hardman in the pass game. Hardman’s declining role should open the door for Byron Pringle to show us what he can do in the return game. It shows how stacked the Chiefs roster is, to go from one guy with elite return potential in Hardman, to another guy with elite return potential in Pringle. Do not panic Chiefs fans, things are going to be just fine for Coach Dave Toub’s special teams unit, even though Mecole Hardman’s role is set to decline In 2020 thanks to guys like Byron Pringle.