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Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Wide Receivers

Posted Jul 31, 2014

In this series we’ll take an in-depth look at each positional group of the Kansas City Chiefs.

One of the biggest storylines throughout training camp for the Chiefs is the wide receiver position. This has been a top story since all of the players arrived at camp on July 23. There’s a nice mix of veterans and young talent on the roster, which makes the position intriguing to watch.

The obvious leader of this group is seven-year veteran Dwayne Bowe, who’s already the Chiefs all-time leader in receptions (472) at receiver. He’s also just 906 yards away from passing Otis Taylor (7,306) as the Chiefs all-time leader in receiving yards at receiver (TE Tony Gonzalez holds both overall records).

Coming into his second year with quarterback Alex Smith, Bowe admits there’s a comfort level with Smith that they didn’t necessarily have last season.

“I would say trust,” Bowe said. “Definitely trust is a big factor. The first year we were getting to know each other, but this year, it’s like trust is there [and] the timing is getting better. And that’s all you can ask for is more time with the guy. And that’s what we’re out here doing—timing and working together. And it’s all coming together.”

Bowe has made a name for himself throughout his career as a receiver for making the tough, contested catches. A lot of these catches were made when he wasn’t necessarily open, but physically fought to catch the football in traffic.

It’s important for Bowe to know Smith can trust him to make those plays in traffic, delivering passes when there isn’t much room for error.

“It’s comfortable for me to know that he trusts me,” Bowe said. “If it’s 1-on-1 and a safety on top, I know that he knows that he could put it there and I’m going to come down with it. Because we’re paired off in practice so they are saying ‘do it in the preseason,’ and then from there we’ll take it into the regular season.”

After his 2013 season, where Bowe finished with 57 catches for 673 yards and five touchdowns, Bowe decided to use a personal trainer during the offseason for the first time in his career. It resulted in a leaner Bowe showing up to Chiefs training camp.

Bowe knows how important his training is to prolonging his career.

“As you get older and talking to the old vets, they tell you that every year you should lose more weight and that’s how you stay in the game,” Bowe said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

As he helped himself by coming into camp in great shape, Bowe also knows he’s going to be looked upon by a talented group of young players, who will look to him as a leader.

“Don’t be complacent; just make every play your last play,” Bowe said. “That’s what I tell my group. That play, be the best you can be at that play. And at the end of practice, you’ll put a great practice together. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

One player who has had the opportunity to be around Bowe a little bit is third-year player Junior Hemingway, who picked up 125 yards on 13 receptions and two touchdowns last season.

Also embracing this leadership role, Hemingway looks forward to the development of the younger players to help improve the team as a whole.

“I like it,” Hemingway said. “We have some guys coming in (and) we have confidence in those guys. And they are going to pick who they need for the team. We can come in and embrace them as older guys and help them get acclimated to everything so we can get on this run.”

Donnie Avery, who enters his sixth-year in the NFL and with his fourth team, finished second on the Chiefs last year for receivers with 596 yards on 40 receptions and two touchdowns.

Another receiver on the roster with some NFL experience is former San Francisco 49ers receiver AJ Jenkins, who came over in a trade last August. Jenkins is known for his speed and has shown that at training camp.

Jenkins finished the 2013 season with eight catches for 130 yards.

Another intriguing veteran is former San Francisco 49er Kyle Williams, who enters his fifth NFL season.

In speaking with Williams after practice, it didn’t take long to understand why he likes playing for coach Reid.

“Fast man, real fast and very, very detailed,” Williams said. “As a player, especially as a player in my position, you can really respect that because I’ve come from a place that’s successful and you know why you’re successful is that attention to detail, it’s second to none here. So, I’m excited to say the least.”

While he’s competing for a roster spot with them, Williams didn’t shy from praising his young teammates on the outside and helping them whenever he gets an opportunity.

“These young guys can play—every one of them,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of untapped talent just because nobody knows about it yet, except for the guys that are here, but these guys can play.

“You help out these young guys as much as you possibly can. You get them on the right track and make sure they’re in their playbook and their assignment sound and it helps you become a better player as well.”

As the competition continues to heat up as we get closer to the preseason games, there’s no doubt that an ability to play special teams will be critical for the few receivers who are kept on the roster.

Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub believes all the talent and competition is a good thing.

“It’s a good thing to have a lot of guys to create competition,” Toub said. “You get banged up, especially in the preseason, so you’re going to have to have guys to go to. You never know when a star is going to come out. We think we have enough guys in our crew here that one of them will come out.”

With more talent than spots available, Reid knows of the talent he has and the decision they’ll ultimately have to make.

“I like them,” Reid said. “I like the young group. We can’t keep them all, right? So there are going to be some guys that make this team and there are going to be some guys that go from here and make other teams, but they sure are playing hard.”

One of those talented young players is Frankie Hammond Jr., who spent last year on the Chiefs practice squad.

Hammond admitted the playbook took some time to fully learn and understand.

“It took a little while because all of the positions are interchangeable,” Hammond said. “So you’ve got to know every position from the tight end to the receiver and almost even the fullback at some point. It took a while but like I said I just detailed it and just kept working and chipping away at it until I got it down.”

In discussing the experiences of being on the practice squad last year, Hammond explained how it helped his development throughout the course of last season.

“It helped a lot,” Hammond said. “I got to focus more on the playbook and it took off the pressure because I wasn’t actually playing in the games. So it let me try inside releases, outside releases and see how it went because I’ve got room for error to see how that works out.”

With experience available to lean on and learn from with veterans on the roster, Hammond looks to a couple of Chiefs who were here last season in this same offensive system.

“I’ve really been learning from Donnie (Avery), just watching his techniques and how he does things in our offense,” Hammond said. “I’ve also taken some things from Junior Hemmingway. I’ve kind of taken a little piece from everybody.”

Perhaps no player has been as widely noticed throughout a week of camp as undrafted rookie Albert Wilson from Georgia State, who has been making plays at both receiver and on special teams.

Wilson even caught the attention of Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub.

“He’s really shown us a lot of good things,” Toub said of Wilson. “He looked really good as a punt returner: caught it, great burst, he runs hard, catching the ball effortlessly as far as a punt goes. That’s hard to do when you have a punt team covering down on you.”

Trying not to be too wide-eyed during the process, Wilson tries to remain grounded as training camp moves closer to the preseason games.

"Mistakes will come,” Wilson said. “My coach always tells me, 'don't make the same mistake twice.' I need to learn from my mistakes, build on that and cut back on the things that I messed up on the first route and fix it the next time."

Despite coming from a small school, Wilson still doesn’t see himself as an underdog.

"Some people may see it as I'm coming in as an underdog,” Wilson said. “But we're all here at training camp and we all have the same opportunity. I'm out here to work and compete."

Young receivers Fred Williams, Mark Harrison and Darryl Surgent have also been making plays so far during training camp. Each of these players are doing whatever they can to show what they can do in hopes to make the Chiefs final roster.

As these young receivers work to compete, Bowe and company continue to show the way as we get closer to the start of preseason games.

There is perhaps no positional group on the entire Chiefs roster that has more riding on the four preseason games than receiver.

It’s going to be a great position to watch over the next few weeks.

RELATED CONTENT:

Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Quarterbacks

Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Defensive Line

Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Offensive Line

Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Tight Ends

Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Linebackers

Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Specialists

Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Defensive Backs

Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Running Backs

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