Darling ahead in race for second WR spot
WPI
WPI
Warpaint Illustrated Columnist
Posted Jul 27, 2008


One of this offseason's most anticipated position battles in Kansas City is for the starting wide receiver spot opposite Dwayne Bowe. Early on, it looks like a two-horse race led by free agent signee Devard Darling.

The other horse, much to the chagrin of many Missouri fans, is not rookie Will Franklin. However, San Diego State fans will be happy to hear Jeff Webb is getting significant reps with the first team.

Thus far in training camp, Darling has been starting drills with the first-team offense. Webb is the next receiver to cycle through, and while Maurice Price and Kevin McMahan have received a few token reps with the starters, it’s not been enough to mean anything.

Darling, who previously played for the Baltimore Ravens, is relishing his opportunity to get a fresh start in Kansas City.

“Every man in life just needs an opportunity,” said Darling. “I just thank the Lord for blessing me with this opportunity and for everyone in the Chiefs organization for giving me this opportunity. I'm just going out there trying to get better every day, that's my number one goal.”

Despite the fact it appears Darling has a step or two on Webb in the race for a starting spot, he’s not letting up.

“Every day is a competition,” said Darling. “This is the NFL, so I mean, nothing is guaranteed, so you just got to come out here and compete every day…I'm a big play receiver, now I'm trying to bring a consistent player. That's how you stick around in this league is consistency.”

Franklin's reps with the first team have come in three wide receiver sets. He's also playing in the slot with the second team. Last season at Missouri, Franklin was the senior leader on a talented corps of receivers. This season, he will be a rookie member of a receiving corps that’s struggling to get better.

While Franklin is probably the best athlete the Chiefs have at the wide receiver position, aside from perhaps Bowe, and he had a fantastic college career playing in a great offense, he isn't disappointed that he hasn’t been considered for a starting position. Instead, he views playing the slot position as a challenge.

“Anyone can go outside and play the outside,” said Franklin. “It takes a lot of speed to play the inside. They (the coaches) feel like I have the speed and the size to get in there and bang, and continue to get up field fast enough.”

Getting up field fast enough may be the most important aspect of Franklin's game. What we've seen thus far in training camp, and the rest of the offseason, has given the indication that the Chiefs will be running a lot of short, under the coverage routes and more bootlegs than Kansas City fans are used to.

With an emphasis on the power running game and short passing routes, someone is going to have to stretch the defense. Franklin may be that guy, but he still has much to learn.

“There's still a lot,” he said. “There's a lot out there for me, and learning this playbook is the most (important). It's just a thick playbook. It's not like college where you have selected plays, so for me it's going to take a lot of me doing a lot of individual studying, and getting in with the quarterbacks and doing extra.”

If the first game of the season started tomorrow, Darling would likely start on the right side with Bowe on the left and Franklin in the slot. However, though Darling apparently has a lead, his grip on a starting job may not be a strong one. Neither he nor Webb has really done anything to win or lose the job.

Unless one of them shines in next Thursday's intersquad practice with the Minnesota Vikings, or in the preseason, the battle for the number two wide receiver spot could carry into the regular season.


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