Much has been said about the wide receiver corps in the off-season. Though the rest of the league is not sold on them, Chiefs coaches are excited about Eddie Kennison who signed a long-term deal recently and Johnnie Morton who is expected to rebound from a difficult inaugural season with the Chiefs in 2002.
But the enthusiasm from KC fans as they enter the 2003 season was the emergence of Marc Boerigter who came out of the CFL and eclipsed every single expectation the Chiefs had about him in the 2002 season. As the 2003 season gets going, Boerigter will not be a surprise nor will Dante Hall, who had big games catching the ball against the New York Jets and Denver Broncos. These guys are key but the veterans headline the group.
We start with Eddie Kennison, who after a tumultuous relationship under Mike Shanahan in Denver, signed as a free agent during the 2001 season. Kennison quickly made big plays along with rookie Snoop Minnis.
In 2002, Kennison led the Chiefs wide receivers in catches (69) and yards per catch (17.1). Kennison does not have the speed he once had when he was ripping it up at LSU, but he was able to stretch the defense for the Chiefs in 2002 and caught several long balls from Trent Green.
Kennison only caught two balls for touchdowns last season but he was one of Green's favorite targets on third downs. Other than the dropped ball in an overtime loss to the Broncos at home, he had a spectacular season. He's going to play the Z position this year after playing the X slot last year.
The reason for the switch is because Johnnie Morton prefers to play the X spot and feels he can contribute more to the offense with the change. Morton struggled mightily last season and he never adjusted to playing a new wide receiver position. To the average person, the switch seems a little silly, but to Morton it's critical to his success. He played the X spot in Detroit and he feels more comfortable. The Chiefs need Morton but he had other problems as well in his first year with the Chiefs.
The other problem for Morton is that he was not used to the hard and grinding practices in Kansas City. When he was with the Lions they played bad on the field and practiced even worse off the field. Morton never adjusted to the Vermeil/Saunders way until very late in the season. By then it was too late.
But the Chiefs have to get him more involved in the offense to open the passing lanes for Tight End Tony Gonzalez.
But the other factor for Morton to be successful is the fact that Marc Boerigter emerged as a potential superstar last season. Boerigter will push Morton for the starting spot even though he currently backs up Eddie Kennison at the Z spot. Boerigter could care less where he plays.
Boerigter broke out against the Chargers with a couple of touchdown catches. He led the Chiefs with eight receiving touchdowns, and former Hastings, Nebraska native became a crowd favorite and a huge target for Trent Green.
Like I said, he won't surprise anyone this year and teams will probably key on him a little more. Many in Chiefs camp feel that he can start now but he'll be used as the third receiver, but both Morton and Kennison need to be looking over their shoulders.
Return specialist Dante Hall came from nowhere on offense and made big plays. He had a big touchdown catch and run that set up a comeback win over the Jets in New York and had the most amazing game against the Broncos last season in Denver.
That was his breakout game where he scored touchdowns and made more moves on the field that left Broncos defenders doing the splits that he is worthy of being called the most exciting player on offense. No disrespect to Priest Holmes, but you never know what Hall will do with the ball in his hands.
Vermeil already knew that he could return kicks and punts but he had faith in him as a receiver and found ways to get him involved in the offense. Now Al Saunders has another weapon on offense. Hall will be used as the fourth receiver in obvious passing situations but he'll likely also line up in the backfield to run the ball or be a decoy. Expect him to get several opportunities on reverses. The Chiefs under-utilized him in trick plays and they should take advantage of his speed, if nothing more than to set up a defense for a big play in a crucial situation.
Those four guys are a lock to make the team. Now the fun begins, as the Chiefs have to decide if they are going to carry five or six wide receivers. My guess is that they will carry six simply for the fact that someone will get nicked or injured during the season. The Chiefs learned a hard lesson in Denver when they were down to two healthy receivers at the end of the game.
Sylvester Morris, the teams #1 draft choice from the Gunther Cunningham era has been a bust. He had one great game against the Chargers back in his rookie season and has been injured ever since.
After being on the IR all last year recovering from a blown out knee back in 2001, Morris was poised to make the roster but he injured his hip in the first days of training camp and is likely headed to the Injured Reserve to start the season with his release likely to come sometime during the season. Give his agent Tom Condon credit, he held Morris out for more money and he's had a free ride and cashed every check from the Chiefs.
With the injury to Morris, Marvin "Snoop" Minnis is likely to earn a spot on this team. Minnis was awesome leading the team in catches his rookie year in 2001 when the Chiefs had no receivers who had any experience. He was Green's go to guy in clutch situations and laid out for the ball numerous times to try and make plays for the struggling offense.
Minnis was hurt last year but he's a great asset to this team and provides valuable experience and depth in this offense. If someone is injured, then Minnis can step in and play either wide receiver position.
The Chiefs signed free agent special team performer Dameane Douglas from the Philadelphia Eagles. He could have thrown a wrench into the Chiefs wide receivers plans, but he too was injured in camp and his return is questionable.
That opens the door for a couple of other players that have been flashing in camp.
Former Arena League stud Chris Horn and un-drafted free agent LaShaun Ward are the two. Horn lit up the Arena League and many teams were after his services. The Chiefs had to outbid the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers for Ward's services.
Horn has won high praise in camp for his hands. He catches everything in his reach and has turned some heads from Vermeil and Saunders. But so has Ward and this might be the best battle of the pre-season. You can never have enough pitchers in baseball or wide receivers in the NFL.
Others who are on the roster and have no shot at making the team are rookie receivers Wilson Thomas, Kirk Rogers and Cutis Jackson. If any of these three make the team, the Chiefs are in trouble. With five pre-season games, the Chiefs were smart to have so many options signed before camp started.
In 2003, Morton has to step up and Boerigter needs to continue to develop and not fall off from his 2002 performance. Kennison will be sharp and Hall will make his plays but I just bet several times this year the Arrowhead crowd will be yelling ‘SNOOP'.