Bowe's Replacement A Mystery

Which Chiefs receiver will replace suspended Dwayne Bowe's 51.7 receiving yards and 3.6 catches per game over the next four weeks? That's the question of the month. The question of the week is who will replace Bowe's production against the Steelers, and the likely answer: no one.

The Steelers may have the league's best defense and KC's sputtering offense is more than likely to struggle this weekend. However, as Todd Haley pointed out Wednesday, the game will not be cancelled on account of Bowe's absence, and unless the Chiefs line up in an old school three-tight end set, someone will probably be standing in Bowe's position when the offense takes possession for the first time Sunday. In typical Haley fashion, we probably won't find out who that player is until game day.

"I won't go into the details of who's where or things like that, but like I said, I think Bobby Wade will be back playing, and that's good for him, because he was not not playing because of anything to do with his ability," said Haley. "That was more of a roster thing two weeks in a row, and I kind of tried to make that clear to you all and to him. It's a tough decision - last guy, somebody's got to sit."

Is the mention of Wade an indication he will start? Not necessarily. It could just be Haley's way of helping the confidence of a player who's been battling with being deactivated two weeks in a row. But whatever his reason for doing so is, Haley referred to Wade numerous times Wednesday.

"Our receiver group must step up," he said. "We lose one of our best receivers for four games. I've said here the last couple weeks the receiver group is improving as a whole. It will be an opportunity for Bobby Wade to get back into the mix. I know he's been working hard to get another opportunity, and he'll get one this week, but again, as a whole that group needs to step up and fill a void…Bobby's been chomping at the bit. He helped us obviously a bunch right when he got here, and now he's looking to help us again."

In his Week 2 debut, Wade hauled in six receptions for 72 yards. He, like Bowe, is averaging double-digit yards per reception, and has just one fewer reception per game than the suspended star. Throw in what he brings to the return game, and Wade's deactivation may appear unfair.

But it's important to keep in mind what the Chiefs' goals are this year. Haley has all but refused to say this season is more about instilling a new attitude and work ethic while evaluating talent than it is about winning, but it is. You don't have to look too far into his comments about Lance Long to figure that out.

"(Long) wasn't a highly productive college receiver, but a guy who's kind of come on, works hard," said Haley. "Really, it's hard to outwork him. He's out there running routes on air by himself after practice. This kid works, and again, he has some unique skill, and we're just trying to find out exactly what we have going forward."

Long works hard, and is rewarded with playing time. He's an unknown commodity, so he receives playing time so the coaching staff can evaluate him. That doesn't mean Wade isn't a hard worker. If that were the case, Haley never would have brought him in. But, with Long, Haley can both send a message to the team that hard work will be rewarded while he evaluates talent at the same time. The same goes for players like Jovan Belcher and Sean Ryan. Both are hard workers, and players the coaching staff needs to further evaluate.

Haley has been walking the tight rope this season of whether to start the most talented players or the players that fit his idea of the "right 53." Dwayne Bowe's attitude, arrogance and complacency don't necessarily qualify him as the latter, so it's clear he's been starting because his talent cannot be ignored.

Larry Johnson certainly never fit the mold of the "right 53," but like Bowe, his talent was too much to ignore. The one instance where Haley has most glaringly sat talent in favor of attitude is the case of Derrick Johnson. The difference is that Johnson's production over the course of his entire career is not on par with Bowe and LJ. Haley has to juggle the balance of playing the "right" vs. the "best."

Who will receive more snaps in Bowe's absence? It will most likely be an even spread between Wade, Mark Bradley, Long and Chris Chambers, since none have an attitude problem, and none possess enough talent to ignore.

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