Wide receivers take on supporting role for Chiefs

Rookie Chris Conley has learned quickly what playing wide receiver in Kansas City means.

Kevin Jairaj/Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Travis Kelce in feature roles, playing wide receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs these days requires checking the ego upon arrival.

Charles and Kelce have been targeted with 41 percent of passes thrown this season. Kelce leads the team with 164 receiving yards on 10 catches, and Charles — along with 182 rushing yards — has 48 receiving yards on nine catches.

"They let you know coming in the door you’re not going to play receiver here unless you block," rookie wide receiver Chris Conley said Thursday, "because we have a stable of running backs, we have a run offense that’s potent, and you want to get everything that you can out of it."

Around the league, some wide receivers have earned reputations as divas. None of those reside in the Chiefs’ locker room. Those who play the position in Kansas City have developed an attitude that embraces a supportive role — even if playing second fiddle does not come naturally.

"I don’t think it’s inherent because when you come from different programs you’re coached differently, and you have different roles," Conley said. "But when you come here and you come under this roof, you learn what we’re about here and the way that we play football."

The selflessness of the group has impressed Conley, who noted its diligence in blocking downfield. Veteran wide receiver Jason Avant also gave the unit a positive report, despite the Chiefs ranking 25th in the NFL with 200 passing yards per game.

"We’ve been assignment-pure for the most part," Avant said. "The guys as a whole are learning what’s our strengths on offense, and a lot of times it’s not necessarily catching a lot of passes because you have so many valuable players at other positions. You’ve got to give them their touches, so it’s not going to be a lot of plays to be made, but when you have the opportunity, you’ve got to make them."

No Chiefs wide receiver has caught a touchdown pass since the 14:39 mark of the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts in the wild card game of Jan. 4, 2014, when Alex Smith connected with Donnie Avery on a 79-yard pass-and-run.

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Since then, the Chiefs have attempted 586 passes and completed 382 for a total of 4,051 yards without a wide receiver touchdown.

"It’s something that is in the back of our minds," Conley said. "Our goal is to be ready in any situation that we’re called upon, and really what we’re asked to do is to help this team win. If that comes with us scoring five receiving touchdowns, we’re going to go do it. If that comes with us not scoring any but helping move that ball down the field, we’ll do that as well."

The streak could continue for a while because of the emphasis on Charles and Kelce. The wide receivers are not overly concerned, however, because they feel the team can succeed even if the streak survives. The Chiefs (1-1) play at Green Bay (2-0) on Monday night.

"We focus on what we have to do," Avant said. "They’ll come, and they’re going to come in bunches, but when we have those opportunities and we can make a play, it’ll be made."

Avant suggested more opportunities could be on the horizon, however, with the additions of him, Conley and Jeremy Maclin giving the Chiefs options at the position.

"The offense over the last year is transforming," Avant said. "It was a heavy tight end, running back thing, and now you have talented receivers that are getting better and better. As we show ourselves worthy, the play calling and everything else and those opportunities will constantly increase."