It started when Jeff Webb, a 6-foot-2, 211-pound specimen, was taken by Kansas City in the sixth round of the 2006 draft. Last season, Dwayne Bowe brought his impressive build to Arrowhead Stadium, and soon thereafter his cousin, Bobby Sippio, joined the gang.
With the free-agent signing of Devard Darling, another big receiver at 215 pounds, it’s obvious – Chiefs wide receivers will out-muscle defensive backs in 2008 more frequently than they sprint past them.
Webb, Bowe, Sippio and Darling all stand at least 6-foot-1 and weigh 211 pounds or more. It’s a fact not lost on KC’s new wide receivers coach, Eric Price.
When Warpaint Illustrated talked with Price a few days ago, he was careful to describe all four of the Chiefs’ receivers in large terms.
Looking at the group of “big kids” the Chiefs have assembled, I was reminded of the giant group of receivers the Jaguars put together over the last few seasons. Jacksonville once boasted three receivers 6-foot-4 or taller in Reggie Williams, Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford (now in Miami). When you threw in tight end Marcedes Lewis (6-foot-6 and 270 pounds), it was quite the group of Goliaths.
How did all of that help the Jaguars? Well, they made the playoffs in 2005, but despite the stature of their receivers, the passing game was remarkably average. Jacksonville’s offense ranked 14th in yards per attempt that season. They didn’t throw the ball much and the longest reception all year by a Jags receiver was just 45 yards.
In the playoffs that year, unable to move the ball, the Jaguars lost 28-3 to the New England Patriots.
The following season, the Jaguars proudly fielded one of the NFL’s best defenses (17.1 points per game) and finest running games. And yet they finished only 8-8, mostly due to a lackluster passing game that ranked 29th in attempts and produced only 39 plays over 20 yards.
Will Jeff Webb be the downfield threat the Chiefs need?
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This past year? Jacksonville returned to the playoffs again behind a stout defense and the NFL’s second-ranked running game. In the playoffs? Well, thanks to a bounty of Steelers turnovers, the Jags managed to defeat Pittsburgh in the wild-card round despite only nine completed passes from David Garrard. But in the divisional round, Garrard was unable to compete with Tom Brady’s pinpoint passing, and the Jags fell, 31-20.
The Jaguars have taken moves to upgrade their receivers by adding two deep threats this offseason – former Viking Troy Williamson and former Raider Jerry Porter. How those moves pan out remains to be seen, but Jacksonville appears to have learned their lesson: they can’t get by with a receiving game that features behemoth wide receivers while incorporating few truly fast ones.
Can the Chiefs?
We saw Bowe make plenty of plays down the field last year, but most of the time he was fighting for the ball against a defensive back he had gained little separation from. What the Chiefs need is someone who strikes fear into defensive coordinators on every snap and makes defensive backs surrender cushions at the line of scrimmage, lest they be burned.
Without a long-ball threat to keep opposing safeties deep in the secondary, Larry Johnson will continue to see the stacked boxes that shut down KC’s running game a year ago, especially with a young quarterback under center.
It would be foolish at this point, however, to say the Chiefs don’t have that deep threat on the roster. Price seemed to indicate his group of receivers was not devoid of game-breaking speed, mentioning Webb (who ran a 4.4 40-yard dashing coming out of college) and Darling specifically.
And we know Herm Edwards values a receiver who can get open for a big gain. Both Santana Moss and Laveranues Coles thrived in New York despite the fact the Jets were a run-first team.
But would anyone really object if the Chiefs drafted someone with blazing speed this April? Even if that receiver wasn’t a giant, he’d still have a big impact on an offense that completed only two passes over 40 yards through all of 2007.
Chiefs wide receivers coach Eric Price on...
Dwayne is an exceptional talent, obviously. He really uses his body well. He’s a big-bodied receiver with good, soft hands that’s kind of a go-to guy who’s going to come down with the ball, especially in the red zone. I’ve seen him go up and make the tough catches, jump up and fight for the football and come down with it.
He’s a really special talent and a great kid. He wants to improve his game, get back in here and work hard and improve some of the areas he feels he needs to. He’s excited about the season and learning the new offense, so he’s going to be a pleasure to coach.
Sippio, I haven’t seen as much of, but I watched some practice tape. He’s just a real big-bodied kid, again, who has great hands. He can catch the ball well in traffic. He’s physical and has tons of potential.
I've watched a lot of Jeff Webb from last season. He’s got some talent. He’s got good speed and is a big kid who can catch the ball. He finally got some good experience last year and made some catches, so basically his experience from last year will hopefully help him throughout camp and this next season, to become a better receiver.
He’s been up here at Arrowhead a bunch of times this offseason and I’ve had some good meetings with Jeff. He’s trying to learn the offense. I look for a lot of improvement from Jeff.
He brings some speed to the group. He’s got a nice burst, and he’s another big kid with good hands who runs routes fundamentally sound. He’s kind of looking for his shot, too, along with the other guys in our group – looking for a shot to be an every down guy. He’ll bring some good competition with the other guys.