Bowe suspension stretches Chiefs thin at receiver
First, they release their leading running back and now the scruffy Kansas City Chiefs have said so long to their top wide receiver. How much can a 2-7 team take? The release last week of the disruptive Larry Johnson, on the heels of his second suspension in 12 months, may actually have amounted to addition by subtraction for the struggling Chiefs. Backup Jamaal Charles was more than adequate in a victory over Oakland last week in his first start, running for 103 yards and KC's first rushing touchdown of the year. He looked like he may have deserved to be the starter all along. Losing wide receiver Dwayne Bowe for the next four weeks may be another matter. When the NFL suspended him for violating the league policy on performance-enhancing drugs, Bowe was leading the team with 33 catches for 466 yards and four TDs. Starting with Sunday's game against Pittsburgh, the Chiefs may have trouble mounting any kind of passing attack over the next month. "Our receiver group must step up," coach Todd Haley said Wednesday. "We lost one of our better players for four games." Bowe was in and out of Haley's good graces all year and even had to work his way up from the third team during training camp. But he was the only consistent deep threat in a receiving corps that's seen players shuttling in and out all year. "I've said for the last couple of weeks I feel like the receiver group is improving as a whole," Haley said. "This group of wideouts understands it's time to step up and play." One player who'll help fill the void is Bobby Wade, one of the receivers who was signed off the street after training camp. Wade, whose has stints with Chicago, Tennessee and Minnesota, has made three starts for the Chiefs but was on the inactive list the past two weeks, a move Haley said was made only because of roster demands. "There'll be an opportunity for Bobby Wade to get back into the mix," Haley said. "I know he's been working and waiting for that opportunity." Wade has caught 20 passes for 226 yards since the Chiefs signed him, scoring two touchdowns. "We're definitely a man down, so it calls for all the other receivers to pick up their level of play," said Wade. "It calls for not only the receivers but for everybody who's a part of this offense to pick up the level of their play. Today in practice guys seemed focused on that fact." Another receiver who is sure to see increased attention from quarterback Matt Cassel is Chris Chambers. Signed off waivers from San Diego on Nov. 3, he had less than a week to practice with his new team before going out and catching two touchdown passes against Jacksonville. "Each and every day we practice, I'm getting more comfortable, just trying to learn the overall offense," Chambers said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge. The whole offense is going to have to step up. We've got a guy who's been pretty productive but is down right now. We're going to do our best to make sure we add to it."