What We’ve Needed Since Last Season Ended, Vol. II


The door’s been open for Steve Breaston as soon as he arrived in Kansas City.  He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, a franchise that hasn’t had two good receivers on its roster at the same time since Marty Schottenheimer.  For a player like Breaston, a guy coming off a serious surgery that really wasn’t that long ago, and a reputation for simply being a third option, there was nothing but a neon sign flashing “OPPORTUNITY” here for him in Kansas City.

Wide receiver is, perhaps above all other positions, a timing question.  Especially for somebody like Breaston who will be working primarily in the short-to-intermediate run game.  Because the typical play for Breaston isn’t going to be that far down the field, a serious rhythm needs to be established in order for it to be a play Matt Cassel is comfortable with.

As a degenerate fantasy football gambler, that’s what I always advise my friends who are less experienced.  Don’t go with the most talented receivers necessarily, go with the receivers with the best chemistry with their QBs.  It’s not clear that somebody like Wes Welker could put up half his numbers in your average NFL offense.  But his chemistry with Tom Brady is so sublime, he’s the fantasy leader in football for WRs, even above Calvin Johnson, and even moreso if you’re in a PPR league.

More, after the jump.

Breaston’s timing was off all offseason after the lockout ended.  He was signed to a healthy deal with the Chiefs, but he and they never really saw eye-to-eye on his future with the team, despite the contract.  GM Scott Pioli and HC Todd Haley talked about how badly the team needed a slot receiver.  Breaston, in interviews, talked about how he’d like to be lined up out wide.  Then the team drafted Johnny Baldwin, and Breaston was immediately put in position to be a full-time slotster.

This is worth mentioning, because it’s not enough to be talented.  You’ve got to work at it and love working at it, which is slightly harder if you don’t like the position you’re playing.  Ask Damion McIntosh.

Cassel and Breaston never constructed any chemistry either until Week 3.  First off, Dexter McCluster was getting Cassel’s short looks and was making some surprising plays in that role.

Secondly, Cassel’s reads (and this has been a major criticism of him) have been two-dimensional; he looks at his first read, then retreats immediately to a check-down receiver or takes a sack.  Breaston is your classic second read, he is typically across the middle of the field finding soft spots in short-to-intermediate coverage.  That’s not a look Cassel has had the luxury or willingness to make since he was pitching the ball to Welker in New England.

So it came across slow for Breaston.  But an opportunity blasted wide open when Baldwin ruined his own opportunity by punching a teammate and injuring himself.  Tony Moeaki was lost in preseason for the year.  Jamaal Charles got injured in week 2, forcing McCluster into a full time RB role and out of the slot.  And Jerheme Urban has been so awful he’s been deactivated.

So against San Diego in week 3, with no Charles, a minimal run game to replace him, Bowe getting blanketed and nowhere else to throw the ball, Matt Cassel took the natural chance to test out the WR the fanbase had been clamoring for since the end of last season, and threw Steve Breaston the ball.  A lot.

Four catches and 90 yards later, the two had instantly built a useful rapport that, should Cassel find a way to stay on the roster beyond this year, will pay dividends for future playoff runs.

Breaston looks hungry out there.  The Chiefs are giving him 20+ looks a game out wide instead of just in the slot right now until Baldwin is activated, and he is finding soft spaces in zones, blasting off of coverage with his quick darts, and is racking up some brilliant YAC plays.

Unlike Jackie Battle’s burst, which I think is just a one-week flare that won’t happen much more this season, Breaston’s play against Indianapolis was promising in that it bodes very well for the future.

Both his touchdowns are prime examples of what this team may have for future seasons with him:

  • His first touchdown was a good reception in rhythm with Cassel, and was only a score through his sheer force of will.  Beating the defenders around the edge and sacrificing his body while reaching for the pylon are not the moves of a player just looking to cash a paycheck.  That’s never been Breaston’s style anyway.  This is a cat that wants to win.
  • His second touchdown was a back-shoulder reception thrown absolutely perfect by Cassel.  Back shoulder passes like that rely primarily on two things: the receiver duping the corner into playing towards the front of his body (check), and the QB and WR must have the chemistry down to trust each other.  The fact that Breaston hauled it in will only mean Cassel trusts him more as the season wears on.

Good things are ahead for Steve Breaston and the Kansas City Chiefs.  It was a perfect opportunity for both parties, and Sunday’s win in Indianapolis could be remembered as the day it started paying dividends.