Wilson or Conley: Who answers Chiefs’ call for a No. 2 WR?

Albert Wilson (left) and Chris Conley are the leading candidates for the Chiefs' No. 2 wideout job.

Denny Medley - Jeremy Brevard

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At one point Tuesday, Albert Wilson cut on a post route, high-pointed the ball in the clouds, snatched, tucked and kept on trucking. A while later, there was Chris Conley, off in a corner, snatching with one hand tiny little tennis balls fired out of a tiny little cannon at short range before they could hit the Earth, always adjusting, always anticipating.

"It’s just something you’ve got to feel," Wilson said. "When you go out there, you’ve just got to know (that) nobody’s perfect. And if you do something wrong, you do it at full speed. When you’re coachable, you can go out there and try not to make mistakes, but making mistakes, you can learn from it and bounce back from it, make mistakes and you can go up."

Health permitting, one of them will line up opposite Jeremy Maclin at some point in the fall, and each road has its own intrigue. At the midpoint of the Kansas City Chiefs’ organized team activities, Wilson, the diamond from 2014’s rookie rough, an undrafted free-agent wide receiver out of Georgia State, has been running with the first team — more or less picking up from where the last four weeks of the regular season left off, when he averaged 49.8 snaps from Week 14 on.

"I still feel like I still got to fight until it’s guaranteed," said Wilson, who snared 12 of his 16 catches over the season’s final month. "Still fighting like I’m still the underdog."

And then there’s Conley, the third-round, can’t-miss wideout out of Georgia, cut like he was created in a video game, what with the 6-foot-2 frame, the 4.35 40-yard dash and the 45-inch vertical leap. The kind of tools that would make Batman’s utility belt jealous.

"This is definitely worse than cramming for finals in college, I’ll tell you that," Conley said. "Because there’s a sense of urgency — the season is coming, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not like you can just get a grade and move on. This is your offense, this is your job. So there is a sense of urgency."

A sense of mystery, too: In a perfect world, it’s Maclin, Jason Avant in the slot, and fill in the blank. Conley has been penciled in as a front-runner from the word ‘Go,’ but Wilson has 12 games under his belt already, a year in the system, insane quicks and a comfort zone with Avant and quarterback Alex Smith. Coach Andy Reid likes what he can trust, and that trust must be earned between the stripes.

"I feel like (in the) offseason early, that we got a lot of work in, me and (Alex)," Wilson said. "And then when Jeremy came in, I feel we got a lot of work (in), not (just) on the field, but off the field, in the film room, where we can know what each other is thinking at certain times during a route. Which puts both of us in comfortable positions."

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Conley, meanwhile, is left to cramming, the way all rookies cram. The ceiling is higher, but the path to that ceiling could take longer. It will wind. It will twist. It will spin into ditches, and have to get hauled right back out of them again.

"Really, Jason Avant put it this way when he talked to us rookies," the gifted rookie noted philosophically. "He said, ‘You’ve got to allow yourself to fail, and you’ve got to learn to forgive yourself.’ And you know, it’s difficult, because you’re coming from college, after you were that guy — you did everything right. You knew everything and you knew how to do it and beat people.

"And when you’re starting at the bottom, you don’t know everything. You don’t know how to beat everyone yet. And you’re kind of taking your first steps and you’re learning and you’ve got to be able to just go full-speed, do what you can.

"Mess up, forgive yourself, learn from it, come back out there and do it again. And really, that’s just really the art of football. And when you become that guy who is consistent, that guy who is out there like J-Mac and Jason and those guys that have done it before, countless times. There have been thousands of reps that they ran that they messed up, and that’s the thing people don’t remember, people don’t realize, is they’ve been doing this for a long time, and there’s been a lot of reps in a season and the offseason that they’ve messed up. And they told us, ‘Come out here and just keep working at it — you have talent, or else you wouldn’t be here.’ Now it comes (down) to refining that talent, because everyone has talent in this league. It’s, ‘What are you going to do to make yourself that much better?’"


So it’s back to the little tennis ball cannon, rep after rep. Back to sacrificing your body for the cause in June. Back to the derby and the grind.

"It doesn’t matter," Conley said when asked about making a run up the depth chart in the months to come. "You know, it’s not really something that we players are concerning ourselves with. We are taught to ignore the noise on the outside and when we come in this building and we step in between these lines, it’s time to work.

"And that doesn’t have to do with our depth chart. That has to do with our skills and our tools in our toolbox and our knowledge of the game. And that’s really the way that coach (David) Culley has been approaching things is, ‘Hey, we’re not worrying about that.’ We’re worrying about learning the art of football, becoming a student of the game and making plays when your number is called."

That call is coming. So: Who answers?

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @SeanKeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.