The Sports Xchange

NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - INSIDE SLANT

After the end of the 2013 season, most Kansas City Chiefs observers figured the team's offseason shopping list would start with a wide receiver.

Coach Andy Reid's passing game lacked any real firepower as the depth of talent available for quarterback Alex Smith to target was shallow.

General manager John Dorsey -- a transplant from the Packers' front office that made a living on plucking receivers in the middle and late rounds -- and Reid, who knew Dorsey from Green Bay and used a similar buy-low approach on receivers with the Eagles -- seem to have other thoughts about their receiving group. They did not spend big money in free agency and did not use a selection in the 2014 NFL Draft on a pass catcher. The only additions that attracted any notice in the football world were the signing of Weston Dressler out of the Canadian Football League and the addition of running back/receiver/returner De'Anthony Thomas as a fifth-round selection in the draft from the University of Oregon.

The Chiefs went to training camp with 13 wide receivers and the competition for the five or six spots on the 53-man roster is intense, especially since eight of the 13 have not caught a single pass in the NFL.

"Our whole receiver crew has done an excellent job," said Smith. "They had a great offseason and they've kept it going in camp with the pads on. Those guys come out and battle every single day. They come out prepared and make a lot of plays."

One of the reasons the Chiefs did not invest further in receivers is the $50 million contract they gave Pro Bowl No. 1 receiver Dwyane Bowe in March 2013.

Bowe didn't perform like a star in Reid's system last season, but he arrived in the best physical shape of his career and he's the established leader of the group. But he must improve on his performance from last season with 57 catches for 673 yards and five touchdown receptions. Veteran Donnie Avery must have a better season than what he put on the field in 2013, with 40 grabs for 596 yards and two touchdowns.

No other receiver has a guaranteed spot entering the preseason opener. Thomas will be a hybrid weapon for Reid's offense, as he'll lineup in the backfield, as well as outside as a receiver. His spot on the roster should be safe, especially since he's been one of the best performers in camp. He has quickly picked up the always difficult Reid offense and won the respect of his teammates on defense.

"As a defensive player, you get nervous when you've got him in the game," said veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson. "You look up and it's No. 1 in the backfield and that's not a running back to me. He's one of those guys that's going to create that mismatch for the linebackers. He's going to help us this year."

Veteran Kyle Williams and rookie Albert Wilson have been most impressive among the rest of the wideouts during the practices. Williams was claimed on waivers last year when he was released by San Francisco, but one week into his Chiefs season he suffered a torn ACL in practice. The five-year veteran has shown no ill-effects from the injury and surgery.

Wilson pushed his way into roster contention by traveling the toughest road in the game - an undrafted rookie free agent. Coming out of Georgia State University, Wilson was a big playmaker for a college program that was just breaking its way into Division 1 football. In camp practices his chances to play with the No. 1 offense increase on a daily basis as the coaches and quarterback have growing confidence in his abilities.

"Albert has done a great job for an undrafted rookie receiver," said Smith. "To come in and not just mentally grasp it, but he's made a lot of plays. He's been impressive."

Other receivers have shown flashes. Frankie Hammond, who spent last season on the Chiefs practice squad and Fred Williams, coming in with a background in the Arena Football League, are performing like players who know every camp practice could be their last. Dressler along with Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins will be in the mix as well.

There are a lot of bodies to wade through and it's important the Chiefs find reliable receivers that can make contributions to the offense.

"We give them as many reps as we can," said Reid. "It takes a little time. We evaluate them and play the best guys ... we just keep playing them."


NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - NOTES, QUOTES