Dec 30, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Chris Conley (31) catches a pass for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Louisville Cardinals of the Belk Bowl held at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Training camp is now well and truly in full swing. The Kansas City Chiefs are back in pads, the fans are naively optimistic like every year and everyone in and around Arrowhead is gearing toward the new season. One piece of news that I always keep track on during training camp is injuries.
Injuries can make or break a season. Mike DeVito and Derrick Johnson missing the whole of last year impacted the Chiefs’ run defense in a catastrophic manner, and Andy Reid will be hoping that his star players will have better luck this time around. One player, however, who has mostly been unable to find the practice field this year has been rookie wideout Chris Conley.
General manager John Dorsey traded up for Conley in the third-round after a run of wide receivers were taken ahead of him. The combine star is considered to have some of the biggest upside out of all the rookie wide receivers. His combination of size and speed is tantalizing for Chiefs’ fans, and he could be an absolute monster on the outside. Unfortunately, Conley has been sidelined with a strained knee. Finally, Conley was able to see the field on Monday for the first time.
The injury itself is not particularly worrying. And actually, from a long-term perspective, it is not too relevant either. However, the Chiefs have a real opportunity of winning the AFC West this season, and it looks as though Alex Smith and his offense will dictate the successes or failures of the team. The defense is one of the best in the league but the offense has many question marks. After the offensive line, the wide receivers corps, and in particular the wide receiver spot opposite of Jeremy Maclin, is perhaps the biggest question mark of Andy Reid’s offense. Conley could have been the answer, but after missing so much time this is looking increasingly less likely.
Albert Wilson will start in this position after impressing in the final four games last year. The undrafted sophomore has exceptional speed and quickness. His hands are reliable and his route running is accomplished. His only doubt? His size. Standing at 5-foot-9, Wilson is always going to be doubted as an outside wide receiver. In the slot, Wilson is an ideal prospect. Small, agile and very quick, Wilson will be extremely dangerous on quick slants and the screen game, something that Andy Reid loves to use. However, the answer for the Chiefs to the second wide receiver spot is not Albert Wilson. It’s Conley, and at this point in time, Conley has not able to prove so.
“Conley can flat out fly, folks. He’s one of the smartest players in this draft.” – Mike Mayock on Chris Conley
The key issue with Conley missing time in camp is learning the playbook. As a rookie, Conley has been overloaded with information. As a rookie wide receiver in an Andy Reid, West Coast offense, this rings even truer. Mental reps are all well and good for laying down the foundation for learning the playbook, but there is no replacement for physical reps. Conley needs to learn what it’s like to face NFL-caliber corners, how to handle the increased physicality of the NFL.
Without this opportunity, it seems worrying for Conley’s season. It not may be until later in the season that Conley will be able to show his talent and utilize his outrageous physical tools. This could be a major issue for the Chiefs offense and Kansas City’s season as a whole.
Conley is extremely intelligent; it is one of the main reasons why I love the pick so much. However, football IQ alone is not enough, and as the old saying goes: “practice makes perfect,” and at this point, Conley has not able to practice but once. Long term, Conley will be an excellent wide receiver for Kansas City, but in 2015, it is looking less and less likely that he will success.
So, do you agree Chiefs’ fans? Are you worried about Conley’s lack of practice time? Do you think that Wilson has the ability to play outside, or do you, like me, believe that he has the tools to excel in the slot instead? Let me know in the comments below and as always… GO CHIEFS!!