It was August 14, of 2013 and the Chiefs were preparing to break camp. Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was asked about the long ball not showing up in practice and if he was concerned about that? Bowe said,
"“No, not at all. We’re progressing. You know, um. Coach says you gotta crawl before you can walk. As long as were moving the chains the offense will be productive. You know it’s preseason. We working on some mechanics, we working on getting the ball thrown deep. So, it’s all a process. We just got one game down and three to go and then that’s when you’ll see the real season start and that’s when you’ll see … bombs over Baghdad,”"
Well, that’s not exactly how the season turned out. In fact, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was the Chiefs leading receiver.
So, can Chiefs fans expect “the bombing” to commence in Andy Reid’s second season as the Chiefs head coach or should we expect more of the same?
Well, let’s first take a look at who produced any receiving yards worth mentioning in 2013.
Yards, Position and Player
693 RB Jamaal Charles
673 WR Dwayne Bowe
596 WR Donnie Avery
511 WR Dexter McCluster
302 TE Sean McGrath
200 TE Anthony Fasano
155 WR A.J. Jenkins
125 WR Junior Hemingway
75 RB Knile Davis
105 Among 4 other players
3,561 Total Receiving Yards
Kansas City’s 3,561 yards placed them 24th in the league in receiving. It’s been suggested that the low totals for Chiefs receivers comes by design. That Andy Reid’s offenses traditionally spread the ball out between many players. So, let’s take a look at Andy’s last year with his previous team, the Philadelphia Eagles 2012 results.
Yards, Position and Player
857 WR Jeremy Maclin
700 WR DeSean Jackson
684 TE Brent Celek
648 WR Jason Avant
373 RB LeSean McCoy
256 WR Damaris Johnson
248 WR Riley Cooper
186 TE Clay Harbor
123 Among 3 other players
4,075 Total Yards
If you recall 2012 was a down year in Philly and after finishing 4-12 Andy Reid ended up in Kansas City. In 2011, the season of the infamous “Dream Team” they finished with 4,276 total receiving yards but, reaching true Dream Team status was a bit of a misnomer ending the season at 8-8.
In reflection, it appears the notion that the Chiefs receiving output in 2013 is not within any norm for an Andy Reid offense. While DeSean Jackson, in 2010, was the last Eagles receiver (in Reid’s system) to gain more than one-thousand yards in a season (1,056), that amount is so nominal that there appears to be less of an emphasis on the production that would come in a traditional wide receiver setup: WR1, WR2, Slot WR…. Reid’s preference appears to have a higher number of receivers, including those from many positions, producing equally, thus creating an increasingly difficult defensive task for coverage.
However, if the Chiefs produce the same numbers in 2014 that they produced in 2013 I think most K.C. fans will be disappointed. So… should Kansas City Chiefs fans expect the numbers of this year’s wide receiving corp to be any better in 2014 than they were in 2013?
Charles should produce with the same amount of frequency as he did in 2013 but, don’t expect him to be the team’s number one wide receiving target. If he is… don’t count on the passing program being considered a wide success.
Bowe is back and after a low output season he should bounce back and produce much better numbers. After gaining his lowest number of years in 2013 fans should remember that Bowe had previously gained 995 yards or more in four of his previous six seasons. This season will be his 8th season overall (6,401 career yards receiving) and if he maintains his current 917 yards per year average, should break Otis Taylor’s all-time receiving yards* record (7,306), for a Wide Receiver, by the end of the 2014 season.
*Tony Gonzales holds the all-time receiving record for a Chief with 10,940 yards. Tony’s career total (15,127 career yards) are so outstanding that only four receivers (all wide receivers) in the history of the game, have gained more yards.
Avery was targeted 72 times during the 2013 season. He caught the ball 40 times. When you’re only catching 56% of the balls thrown your way there’s a problem. A big problem. If he has the same drop-o-lop-ogus problems holding on to the ball this season, he most certainly will be looking for a new team… and probably not finding it… in 2015. However, the Chiefs perhaps should not have signed Avery in the first place. In 2012, Andrew Luck’s rookie year, Avery was targeted 125 times and he caught 60 of those. That’s 48%. So, 56% is a step up for him. By comparison, Bowe caught 57 of 105 last year for a 54% catch rate. However, Bowe isn’t known for his hands so let’s look at someone like Sean McGrath. McGrath was targeted 40 times and caught the ball 26 times for a 65% rate. The point? Both Bowe and Avery must improve their catch rate or the Chiefs are likely headed for a similar outcome for their receiving corp in 2014.
Thomas will be a wide receiver in Andy Reid’s offense. He may infrequently line up at RB but that’s not how the Chiefs will be using him in their pass-centric offense. The reason I’m listing Thomas fourth here is that he will probably be the 3rd or 4th most productive WR in the Chiefs offense this coming year as well as the 3rd or 4th option Reid utilizes each week. Plus, Thomas had almost 1,300 yards receiving in his college career showing good to great hands. Yes, he has track star speed but he is much more than just a runner.
Fasano averaged 420 receiving yards for the previous five seasons before 2013 so assuming he returns to form, which he should (because he has no other history of injuries prior to 2013), then he should gain that many yards in Reid’s system.
Kelce gained 722 yards in his last season in college and Reid’s plan was to use Kelce inside and out giving him some flexibility in two tight end sets. If Kelce comes back strong from his micro-fracture surgery the Chiefs should expect a ton more output from the TE position in 2014.
It’s all about the big “If” with Jenkins. This is the man who Dorsey traded for from the 49ers in exchange for the Chiefs first round pick in 2011, WR Jonathan Baldwin. Neither player has broken out yet and the Chiefs will be giving Jenkins the full opportunity he deserves this season. “If” Jenkins does break out you may see the Chiefs let Donnie Avery go sooner than next off-season which won’t hurt my feelings one bit.
Dressler has averaged 1,088 yards for the past six seasons in the Canadian football league and if he gets in the Chiefs regular rotation should produce but probably as a slot receiver and kick returner. Dressler also averaged 7 TD per season so he knows how to get into the end zone. Some will say that the football in Canada doesn’t translate to the NFl but Dressler has been an all-star performer there and he should be a solid role player for K.C at the minimum. Dressler may also be “the reason” that the Chiefs didn’t go for a wide out in th 2014 NFL draft.
The Chiefs have some other talented receivers on the roster. Junior Hemingway caught 81% of the passes thrown his way so you’d hope he gets targeted more because he has the ability to make the hard catches over the middle. Fourth year WR Kyle Williams hasn’t gotten much of a chance in the NFL yet. However, he did have over 1,600 receiving in college and the Chiefs have brought him back this season to see if he can be a contributor. 6-7, 230 lb. Tight End Demetrius Harris should get more of a shot this season. He’s working on his understanding of the play book better but he’s been with the Chiefs for a year now this summer and he should be ready to join the rotation by now. If not, the Chiefs may release him and go another direction. They can’t wait forever.
Bombs over Baghdad? The original question may have been about “going long” but given the resources at Andy Reid’s disposal, the Chiefs should be able to build and progress based on a solid core of individual receivers who can 1) hold onto the ball when thrown at and 2) QB Alex Smith’s increased familiarity with his targets.
I’d like to see the Chiefs attempt to go long a little more this year and Alex Smith’s playoff game performance tells me he’s up for the chore.
Bombs over Baghdad? Yea, I think that’s a possibility in 2014.
What do you say Addict fans? Are the Chiefs wide receiving corp going to be the bomb… or a bomb?