In TV Land, there’s nothing worse than having your favorite show “jump the shark” before your very eyes (I’m looking at you Law & Order: Special Victims Unit). For at least half of Chiefs Kingdom, that’s exactly what happened with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe in 2014. Despite fifteen starts, he posted the second-worst single season totals of his seven-year career. It didn’t take long for Bowe’s growing group of detractors to lament the contract extension he’d received in the spring. We saw him briefly return to form in the postseason matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, but what he’ll be going forward is anyone’s guess.
Chemistry, between cast members, is a key ingredient for a successful show. When new actors are cast, it’s important that they integrate well into a pre-existing reality. Failure to do so can derail the show. In the SVU case, there’ve been real questions about the addition of actors Kelli Giddish (Det. Amanda Rollins) and Danny Pino (Det. Nick Amaro). Their individual story arcs were sometimes wonky and took too much away from the overall direction of the series. Such may also have been true of quarterback Alex Smith.
Make no mistake, I think Alex Smith is perfectly suited for Andy Reid’s West Coast offense, but I’m not sure he’s the kind of quarterback who meshes well with Dwayne Bowe. At least not in year one. Smith is risk-averse and isn’t particularly fond of throwing into a tight window. Bowe’s not much of a quick-twitch receiver and his route-running leaves a bit to be desired. See the problem tbere? D-Bowe forces Alex Smith out of his comfort zone. We all knew it would take time for the passing game to develop its rhythm. What wasn’t so apparent was how much Bowe’s skillset would be out of balance with Alex Smith’s tendency to avoid risky throws.
For the two to be a productive quarterback-wide receiver tandem, Smith has to be able to trust Bowe. Throwing the football to a well-covered Bowe has to pay dividends and can’t be consistently dangerous. He has to prove he’ll fight for the ball in traffic and come away with the ball. Bowe didn’t always do the best job of that to start the 2013 season. In a Week 4 game with the New York Giants, Bowe ran a lethargic route and allowed Prince Amukamara to cross his face. He lost position and Alex Smith was picked off. The next two games he was targeted just an average of five times per contest.
The playoff loss to the Colts proved to be Bowe’s coming out party. He finished the day with 8 catches, 150 receiving yards, and a 6-yard touchdown. Smith targeted him 13 times in the game (the second-highest total of the season). In fact, over the last nine games of the season (including the playoffs), there were four games where Smith threw in Bowe’s direction ten times or more (there were none in the first eight). That, I think, is a testament to the level of trust he developed for his best receiver. I think he’ll have much more confidence in Bowe in 2014 after a full season of familiarizing himself with him.
I expect Bowe to rebound next year. Earning the trust of a quarterback who tends to play it safe is essential to becoming one of his favorite targets. There simply is no better wideout on this football team and Alex Smith knows it. For the passing offense to continue to take a step forward, he’ll need the help of the former LSU Tiger. Whether or not Bowe can capitalize on those opportunities remains to be seen.
Bowe’s offseason has been marred by his mid-November arrest for possession of marijuana. The charges were dropped last month, but there are still lingering questions about why a soon-to-be 30-year old Bowe still has maturity issues. He says he’s a changed man. During the offseason, he hired a personal trainer and a nutritionist to help him get into the best shape of his NFL career.
He has shown the ability to bounce back from adversity. After he was suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy in 2009, he returned the following year and posted career bests in four statistical categories (receiving yards, yards-per-catch, yards-per-game, and touchdowns). That season marked his only trip to the NFL’s Pro Bowl. A comparable season would be a great way to re-establish himself, win fans back, and maybe help him avoid “cancellation.” The Kingdom will have to tune in to find out if “The Show” recovers or if it’s headed for a series finale.
What say you? Can Dwayne Bowe put his past behind him and return to form? Are more of the troubled wide receiver’s demons lying in wait? Have Bowe’s physical gifts diminished or was 2013 just a perfect storm of offensive hurdles? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Use the comment section below to chime in. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!