Settling In The Wide Receiver Ranks

Posted Oct 8, 2011

Because of injury, Steve Breaston has stepped outside the slot

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - Steve Breaston has been at his best working out of the slot. It’s what the Chiefs signed him to do as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Plans sometimes change.

When Jonathan Baldwin went down with a preseason thumb injury, it forced Breaston into playing more snaps as an outside receiver opposite Pro Bowler Dwayne Bowe. Breaston has still lined up in the slot from time to time but three receiver sets typically see Keary Colbert, or a collection of other receivers, play the inside position.

“I’ve seen Steve play all positions, in both places – Arizona and here,” head coach Todd Haley said. “He’s got a very good feel and understanding of the offense.”

Breaston’s versatility has paid dividends, but his role is likely to resemble the one he played in Arizona once Baldwin becomes part of the Chiefs offensive plans.

Breaston first developed his reputation as one of the NFL’s top slot receivers playing third fiddle to All-Pro wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in Arizona. A 1,000-yard season during the Cardinals’ Super Bowl run in 2008 put him on the map.

Stretching the field vertically as a third receiver has been Breaston’s calling card throughout his five-year NFL career.

“I know that I’m not a guy that’s going to see seven or eight balls a game,” Breaston said. “I just know that, and I’ve been in that situation before, but I have to be a reliable option.”

It was Breaston’s signing that allowed the Chiefs to shift Dexter McCluster to a full-time running back. The second-year player out of Ole Miss has looked much more comfortable working out of the backfield and currently leads the Chiefs in rushing yards, receptions and total touches.

Meanwhile, Breaston is evolving into the player Kansas City hoped he’d be after a slow start to the season.

“It’s getting more and more clear and I think he’s feeling better and better as he goes forward and you’re just seeing some of that comfort level showing up,” Haley said.

Breaston has seven catches for 146 yards over the last two games, including gains of 28, 42 and 43 yards. This after starting the year catching just three passes for 33 yards over the first two games.

“I just keep working to be a reliable source for Matt (Cassel) whenever he comes my way,” Breaston said. “I’m just going to keep grinding.

“I know the ball can come my way on any given play. We have (Dwayne) Bowe, Dexter (McCluster) and now J.B. (Jonathan Baldwin) getting back, so I’m just focused on doing my role and when the ball does come my way, I’ll make the play.”

Baldwin could be making his NFL debut Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis. Medically, he’s been cleared to play. Whether or not he’s ready to join the 46-man active list rests with comfort level of the coaching staff.

Baldwin only played in one preseason game and just began practicing in a full capacity this week. Haley did say earlier in the week that Baldwin had been impressive during practice sessions.

“He’s looked good,” Haley said. “He’s been working with Coach Nick (Sirianni) and they’ve been going over different routes and different plays. It’s difficult for him sitting out, but I think he knows the playbook know that that he benefited (while he was out).”

Even if Baldwin does crack the lineup against the Colts, it’s unlikely he’ll be fully-integrated into the game plan just yet. The Chiefs likely have a specific plan for the first-round draft pick, which means Breaston will continue playing both inside and outside for the time being.

“We’ll move all those guys around a bunch,” Haley said. “It’s great when you have a guy that can do both. The more of those guys you have the better to allow you some flexibility with other guys that maybe are better fits one place or the other.”

Soon, the Chiefs will be able to align in a three receiver set the way most expected it to look prior to the start of the season. Bowe and Baldwin split wide, opposite one another, with Breaston working out of the slot.

Until then, Breaston will continue to play whatever role is asked of him.

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