In the first year of the Andy Reid era in Kansas City, the offensively re-designed Chiefs surprised no one by focusing their passing game on short, high percentage throws. The result was winning (albeit against several opponents starting backup quarterbacks), and doing it while taking few risks.
Reid honed in on Jamaal Charles, and in the end he accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team’s offense in 2013, shattering his previous receiving highs. There’s certainly nothing wrong with putting a football in the hands of your best football player often. But when a running back leads your team in receptions, receiving touchdowns, and receiving yards, there’s a field-stretching problem at some point, one that becomes glaring when trying to mount a comeback
And now that problem could get worse.
Dwayne Bowe has been suspended for the first week of the season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy. It’s one measly week, and nothing to really worry about. No, the problem is Bowe’s wonky finger, which has led to an ongoing bout with drop-itis (disclaimer: not a medically sanctioned term) throughout training camp.
Observations of Bowe’s camp adventures make it sound like he’s far better suited for a local circus. Adam Teicher of ESPN described that sad state of affairs yesterday, saying that Bowe caught the first pass that came his way in practice, but only after juggling it. Then he dropped two balls, and deflected another pass that went for an interception.
When asked, Reid said the reason for Bowe’s struggles is clear. His words were a little ominous:
“His finger is shot. It’s been thrown out of place about 15 times, and he’s not catching the ball. But he’s getting his work done. You can practice with that type of thing.”
Bowe did little last year in an offense that didn’t ask much of him, finishing the season with only 673 receiving yards, the second lowest total of his career. But with his wide frame (221 pounds) and pretty OK speed, Bowe is still the Chiefs’ top deep threat and the best option up the middle to fight for contested balls.
Behind him is Donnie Avery, who has speed, but unlike Bowe can only do one thing (run far, catch ball). Then there’s first-round bust A.J. Jenkins and Junior Hemingway, and the latter had only 13 regular-season receptions last year, though nine of them came over Kansas City’s final five games.
There’s an utter lack of any reliable, consistent threat behind Bowe, which is a concern if he has the type of injury that won’t keep him off the field, but will still be a nagging issue.
That looks to be a possibility, and if Bowe is limited when games become meaningful Charles will be leaned on further, with a share of the load also going to expected breakout tight end Travis Kelce.
By drafting Dee Ford in the first round this past May and passing on much needed available wide receiver help with Kelvin Benjamin and Marqise Lee still on the board, the Chiefs prioritized their long-term view. Tamba Hali isn’t getting any younger (he’ll turn 31 in November) and he has a massive cap hit in 2015. By cutting him and then having Ford ready to slide in right away, the Chiefs can save $9 million.
Fair enough. But in the short term that’s created a significant wide receiver problem in Kansas City, which could quickly lead to a winning problem.