So after my extremely positive review of the moves the Chiefs made to benefit the running game, let's move today to the receiver position.
Here is the recap of grades I've passed out so far. Again, as a reminder, these grades are not complete. They are simply a running total of grades I've handed out so far.
Offseason Moves: 2.5/4.0
Quarterback - 1.0
Running Game - 4.0
Offensive Depth: 3.5/4.0
Quarterback - 3.0
Running Game - 4.0
What the Chiefs Needed to do:
Like most positions, the receiver position needed a lot of help. In particular, the Chiefs needed: 1) Clear answers; 2) future talent; 3) depth.
The biggest question the Chiefs need to answer over the next few years is who is capable of being "the guy." I walked into the 2009 season believing that Dwayne Bowe was poised to be that guy and that Todd Haley would get him there. I walked out of the season with a completely different impression. More and more, Bowe seems to be a receiver who can make a really big play and then miss a few easy ones. That worries me a lot. Here's how I'd break it down: if the Chiefs are a Super Bowl contender in a few years, do you want Bowe to be the target of a pass on a key third down in the AFC Championship game? Right now, the thought makes me wince because I almost feel like there's a 50/50 shot the ball will bounce off of his hands.
Adding Chris Chambers last season was a blessing in disguise for several reasons. First, he was a surprisingly good stopgap in 2009. I don't see any reason why he won't be in 2010 too. Second, he should hopefully have been a wake-up call for Bowe. Before Chambers came to the Chiefs, it seemed like a convenient excuse to blame Bowe's lack of production on an unfair situation, lack of chemistry with the Quarterback, and perhaps a new offensive scheme. Chambers blew those excuses out of the water. He didn't take weeks to get in sync with Cassel. He didn't take a long time to learn the offense. He just did his job and he did it pretty well. He got open, he positioned his body to make the tough catches, and with the exception of a big drop against Buffalo, he caught most of the easy ones too.
What the Chiefs Did:
The Chiefs didn't really do much to find THE clear answer. While the Chiefs didn't add a clear answer at the #1 receiver position, you could also argue that they needed a playmaker. The Chiefs may have added that component by adding McCluster. Secondly, with Charlie Weis calling the shots, one has to wonder if finding star receivers at the X and Y position is still a high priority. Remember that the Pats made waves for years in the passing game with receivers like Deion Branch, David Patten, Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell, and David Givens. Weis is going to get a lot of players involved, whether that be one of the Receivers, one of the Tight Ends, or one of the Running Backs. It's also hard to say that the Chiefs didn't find a clear answer when the jury may still be out on Dwayne Bowe. He certainly didn't prove last season that he's a long-term answer at wide receiver, but he's certainly showed over the course of his career the potential to maybe get there one day.
I do think the Chiefs got better at adding offseason depth. McCluster gives them an underneath option they previously didn't have. Jerheme Urban should add a more reliable possession threat than any receiver they had last season. Those are two pretty key additions for the Chiefs. While neither will likely be full-time players, I thought that Lance Long and Bobby Wade got a lot of really good opportunities in the slot, but didn't take advantage of those opportunities. Those underneath routes are there. Too many of the Chiefs' drives were killed on third downs and ultimately a few extra third down conversions would go a long way toward keeping the defense off the field.
I would like to add one more component. The Chiefs became a lot more versatile at the receiver position and that should arm a very good offensive coordinator with the ability to create a lot of interesting offensive packages that should drive opposing coordinators nuts. McCluster's versatility to both run the ball and line up in the slot allows Weis to exploit mismatches and spread the offense with receivers when a defense heavies up on run personnel. Moeaki's ability to both block and receive does a similar thing. I don't know that the Chiefs' receivers really scare a whole ton of defenses, but I think their versatility is going to confuse them. Maybe that's just as good.
Grade - Current WR Depth: B While I like McCluster's potential, we don't know what he has to offer yet. We don't know if Bowe will show some promise or if he was just a product of Tony Gonzalez. We don't know if Chambers has any gas left in the tank, meaning the Chiefs don't know if they have a true #1 receiver. Even if Bowe is some kind of an answer, there is no long-term option to take the other receiver slot. The rest of the receivers are not fit for the X or Y position. I like the Chiefs' versatility at the receiver position, but it's hard to grade the group highly when there are so many question marks and so few long-term options at the two most important receiver spots.
Grade - Chiefs' 2010 Offseason at WR: A- They didn't bring in a true #1 or #2 to compete with Bowe or Chambers, but then, their options were fairly limited. They didn't bring in any major free agents at WR, but then, I'm not going to get upset about passing up Anquan Boldin for valuable draft picks. They did great by bringing in McCluster and Urban, even if they're not your typical full-time receivers. They got better at the receiver position and there wasn't a whole lot they could have done to get better.