With the Super Bowl rapidly approaching, it’s the season for comparing. In this case, comparing wide receiver tandems. Of course, the dreaded Broncos have more than a tandem that makes them successful but, many of the teams who have appeared in, or won, the Super Bowl have had notoriously productive wide receiving tandems. So much so that, many evaluators believe that this is where it all begins for the league’s most successful franchises. While the days of making a great running back the focus of an offense have long transpired, the need for two great wideouts remains.
Many teams now employ a passing attack that transcends the two super WR paradigm by including athletic tight ends and running backs to maximize their approach. However, the two WR set is still just that, a paradigm: a model, standard or ideal.
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey
Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne
Randy Moss and Chris Carter
Andre Reed and James Lofton
Lynn Swann and John Stallworth
Warren Wells and Fred Biletnikoff
Bob Boyd (RE) and Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch (RH)
There have been great receiving combos for as long as there has been a National Football League. The question is: where do the Chiefs two best wideouts, Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery, rank on the NFL list of receiving combinations in 2013?
This evaluation will focus solely on wideout duos and doesn’t include running backs or tight ends. In 2004 Eddie Kennison had 1,086 yards receiving and Johnny Morton had 795 for the Chiefs so one question to be answered is whether or not this year’s pair compares to those two?
But first, this years best wide receiver tandems.
While these charts focus solely upon the top two receivers in terms of totals receiving yards, it’s obvious that many teams have relied upon other position players to produce their passing yards. Yes, the Broncos have the top two WRs but they have the top TE and 3rd WR as well.
In Buffalo, the two wide receivers posted here were so unproductive that that the Bills TE Scott Chandler was the most productive receiver with 655 yards. The same is true for the Rams whose TE Jared Cook had 671 receiving yards, more than any WR on the team.
The main point of these charts comes when evaluating the Chiefs placement at number 28, 5th from last in WR tandem production. Like some other teams, another player besides a WR was the most productive receiver, that being Jamaal Charles for K.C..
It was not the intent here to point to a negative outcome of the new regime in their first year. More, it was to show that almost any improvement in this tandem, is going to open up the field for not only the running game but the TE and JC catching the ball out of the back field.
I’m sure the Chiefs brass are having discussions this off season about how to reduce JC’s touches without reducing his effectiveness. Improving the production of the #1 and #2 WRs will go a long way in making sure that Charles career is longer than shorter.
The evolution of the NFL passing game includes the RB out of the back field ever since the 49ers included it in their west coast approach in the 80’s and 90’s. In recent year’s this evolution has included New England’s use of two talented tight ends and double TE sets that many teams now employ.
When Andy Reid brought in TE Anthony Fasano last off season then turned around and drafted TE Travis Kelce in the 3rd round, it spoke volumes about how much he intended to use the TE in his new offense in K.C.. However, both Fasano and Kelce were unavailable for major portions of the season and many are speculating Reid and Dorsey will make another move for a TE this off season.
It’s clear that the Chiefs throw the ball to run it and not vice versa. While the Chiefs have several holes to fill it won’t be surprising if they bring in two receivers who end up starting at some point during the year.
Junior Hemingway had a strong season and many were calling for him to get more touches. Whether or not he is in Reid and Dorsey’s plans is unclear because what the Chiefs need most at WR is a player like Donnie Avery… speed wise… only someone who is sure handed and can consistently get open and stretch the field. While many are wanting Avery to go, the Chiefs may not have any other options with him except to reinsert him exactly where he’s been and then hope another incoming receiver can pick up the system quickly and get on the same page with QB Alex Smith.
Jeremy Maclin may be exactly that kind of player but it’s likely Maclin will asking for more than GM John Dorsey can free up under the cap. In any event, wide receiver is a major priority this offseason and it will be high intrigue to follow this story as it develops.
In 2013, the Chiefs couldn’t place enough pressure on opposing defenses with their top two WRs to open the field up for others. If the Chiefs can find a true #1 WR, which I don’t believe Dwayne Bowe is, then defenses can’t cheat over to one side of the field and double Bowe as they do regularly now.
When the Chiefs are able to employ two wide receiving threats on a regular basis, Jamaal Charles will get bigger holes to run through. With Charles, it will only take a few extra inches, and that, can produce a ton of extra yards each year.
Another intriguing aspect of the above charts is that if you go ahead and add Jamaal Charles pass receiving yards to the totals of the Chiefs top two WRs, they are are still hundreds of yards behind the league leaders. Also, there are 8 teams whose WR tandems broke the 2,000 yard barrier but even with JC’s numbers the Chiefs aren’t nearly there.
A side note: Eddie Kennison and Johnny Morton and their 2004 numbers mentioned above would have finished 15th on this list. However, if we had done this same exercise ten years ago… I’m sure they would have finished much higher on the list in 2004. As it is now, this year’s WR tandem of Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery have a long way to go to reach the level of Kennison and Morton of ’04. And that most certainly begins with… holding onto the football… especially when they have an easy chance to catch a catchable ball.
So, the Chiefs have a lot of room to improve at WR… however… I believe it’s entirely reasonable to expect them to be able to do that. And that, will be exciting to watch Chiefs fans.
Alright Addicts… is there a place on the teams where you’re expecting a lot of progress in 2014?