Matt Cassel can be a serviceable NFL starting quarterback, maybe even an above average one. But he has to be surrounded by some big-time, play-making weapons.
That’s why Cassel, the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, is doing all he can to get wide receiver Dwayne Bowe back into the mix of the new Chiefs’ offense.
Bowe returned to practice in full pads Tuesday after signing his $9.5 million tender last weekend. But Bowe is being brought along slowly, as he scrambles to learn new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system.
“We’re excited to have him back and we’ll try to get his assimilated as quickly as possible,” Cassel said. “It’s great to have him back in the building, just to have his leadership. He’s not really on the field yet but to have him back in the receivers’ room, it’s great. As soon as he’s ready, the coaches will have him out there.”
In other words, Cassel is anxious to start working more and more with Bowe, who has had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the last four years.
With the regular season just a little over two weeks away, it’s speed learning time for Bowe.
“We’re helping him as much as possible,” Cassel said. “He’s doing everything he can to pick it up as quick as possible. He’s getting up to speed. He’s done a heckuva job dedicating his time and energy to learn this offense. All the coaches, including myself, are doing what we can to get him ready.”
Actually, Cassel and Bowe need each other. Cassel has an unproven second-year player opposite Bowe in Jon Baldwin. While Baldwin looks the part of a big-time receiver, and has shown flashes of greatness, he is still young and somewhat raw.
Baldwin was unable to get open at all last week against the Rams, was targeted only three times by Cassel, and wound up with one reception for 7 yards.
“Sometimes you have to sacrifice things,” Cassel said. “Last week, the Rams played a lot of split safety coverage and (Baldwin) did a great job of doing his job which is widening the field for the guys underneath, like the guys in the tight-end position.
“It’s not always the wide receiver’s fault for not getting open.”
But Bowe’s presence should eventually help, especially if he’s the one to draw double-teams. And that will ultimately help Cassel find alternative targets who are open.
Physically, Bowe appears close to being ready right now, as he showed off the fruits of his off-season workout plan by flashing his rock-hard abs Monday.
But being in great shape and being in football shape are two different things.
“It felt good to get back and try to get back to the old me,” Bowe said Monday. “I know a new offensive coordinator comes in with new terms, so I was prepared for it. I got it half down (Monday).”
Bowe didn’t seem flustered at the notion of learning a whole new system under Daboll. After all, this will be Bowe’s sixth offensive coordinator since being drafted in 2007.
“It’s not as different as it was last year,” said Bowe, who had to learn Bill Muir’s offense in 2011 after learning Charlie Weis’ in 2010.
“All it is is terms and learning one word and managing the next. I won’t say it’s difficult. I’m a professional. It’s my job.”
But just how fast Bowe picks up Daboll’s system likely will determine whether Bowe plays on Friday in the Chiefs’ next preseason game against Seattle.
“The offensive coaches are giving him a crash course, and he is a willing student because he’s back in the fold,” head coach Romeo Crennel said. “He wants to do well. He’s a prideful receiver, so I think he’ll do everything he can to learn as fast as he can to try to get out on the field.
“(Playing Friday) depends on how he does the next couple of days … after we get him in pads and all that,” Crennel said. “These guys he’s playing against and playing with, they’ve been through all of training camp and have had contact much longer than he has.
“He’s learning a new system, new terminology, and he hasn’t had any contact. Generally, when you start contact, you get a little sore, you get a little beat up, so what we’ll have to determine is how much we think he can take, how much we think he’s ready for. Just like we did with Jamaal Charles and (Eric) Berry and (Tony) Moeaki, is not overdo it. I don’t think we should overdo it with Dwayne because he is really behind these other guys.”