Will Bowe Breakout?

Two items of note surfaced last week in regards to Chiefs' wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. The first listed him as a potential 2009 fantasy breakout. The second called into question his work ethic and his long-term viability as part of the new regime in Kansas City.

So which is it?

It can't be both. Either Bowe will fulfill the wishes of America's fantasy players, become one of football's top receivers and make us all forget about Tony Gonzalez, or he'll disappear without Gonzalez and make us wonder if he's the right fit for Scott Pioli and Todd Haley.

The most interesting aspect of this mini-controversy is that Bowe himself believed his breakout season was going to happen in 2008.

Take yourself back to the first day of last year's training camp in River Falls, WI. As the Chiefs arrived, Bowe stepped off the team's bus sporting stylish jeans, a snazzy belt, and a red Phillies hat. But the thing that stood out the most was his goal. Without hesitating, Bowe told reporters he wanted to rack up 1,300 yards receiving in 2008.

We know now that he didn't come close, with only 1,022 yards. Had Bowe even caught the 13 passes he dropped last season, he likely wouldn't have hit his goal. So what prevented him from reaching it?

According to ESPN's First Take, Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley thinks Bowe isn't in the best possible shape. He wants his best receiver at 218 pounds instead of the reported 228 he currently weighs (or weighed last season).

The fact that Bowe is reportedly in Minnesota working with Haley's ex-receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, probably means we can forget about any questions concerning Bowe's work ethic. It also might be a sign that Haley knows what he's talking about.

That's because it was Fitzgerald who the Cardinals asked to lose weight just last offseason, when Haley was still offensive coordinator in Arizona. No word on if Haley had a hand in it. But the fact that Fitzgerald turned in his best season in terms of statistical production (career highs in yards, yards per catch, and touchdowns) after dropping weight most likely wasn't lost on KC's new head coach.

It's quite possible Fitzgerald is passing on a few weight-loss secrets he learned from John Lott, the strength and conditioning coach in Arizona, made famous for his appearances on the NFL Network during the combine bench press. Not only did Lott's program assist Fitzgerald in dropping from 229 pounds to 213 last season (despite the fact he's listed at 220), it also helped quarterback Kurt Warner drop weight and improve his conditioning.

What does that mean for Bowe? Warner played every game for the Cardinals in 2008, the first year he had started and finished 16 games since 2001. If shedding a few pounds can help an oft-injured 37-year old quarterback survive an entire season without injury, just imagine what it can do for a 24-year old in-his-prime receiver.

Then, of course, there is Fitzgerald, who according to Lott (via NFL.com's Steve Wyche), "gained a step in speed, increased his vertical jump and combined his improved fitness with breakthrough toughness that has resulted in him fighting and gaining more yards after the catch."

The notion that Bowe might be able to actually increase his endurance and conditioning should be enticing to fans. That's because Bowe's best quarter of play last season, by far, was the fourth quarter, at least statistically. He produced 408 yards and three touchdowns in 16 combined fourth quarters, actually better marks than Fitzgerald posted himself in 2008.

Sort of makes you wish the rest of the Chiefs were up in Minnesota with Larry Fitzgerald.

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