Don't Kill The Mellinger

The All-22 video and Dwayne Bowe: trying to solve a Chiefs’ mystery

Updated: 2013-10-18T14:10:25Z


The Kansas City Star

I cannot stress enough that this should come with a sort of entertainment-purposes-only disclaimer. I am not a football coach, and am not playing one here on the internet.

When I watch video, I do it with a sort-of trained eye, but something much closer to the guy two barstools down from you than the one on the sideline with a headset. Watching video — and this goes for, basically, any "breakdown" you read anywhere — does not come with the advantage of knowing each player’s assignment on the particular play or any other number of factors that can make a critical difference in what we see.

So, with that in mind … I watched the All-22 clips of the Chiefs-Raiders game with the specific intention of getting a better idea about what the heck is up with Dwayne Bowe. The defense is on a record pace, but the offense is struggling and Bowe represents the greatest amount of untapped potential.

He is second behind Jamaal Charles with 20 catches, and third behind Charles and Donnie Avery with 229 yards. He and Charles share the lead with two TD receptions each. These things are often misleading, but that’s a pace for 53 catches, 611 yards and five touchdowns. That would be the fewest yards and catches of Bowe’s career, other than his second season, which started with a four-game drug suspension. Perhaps more telling, at least by Pro Football Focus’ numbers, he’s been targeted only 33 times. That’s a pace of 88 targets. Compare that to his last three years: 107 (in 13 games), 130, and 125.

Some of this is that quarterback Alex Smith and head coach Andy Reid both prefer to spread the ball around.

But this is still a major dropoff.

Here’s what Smith said the other day about Bowe:

"You certainly can tell he’s a focal point for (defenses), especially for us outside. It changes, you know, you can certainly see him getting doubled sometimes and clouding to his side, very aware of where he is on the field. I think, once again, coming back to us offensively, to continue to remain balanced and not let them zero in on anybody."

And here’s what Smith said when asked if wants to get the ball to Bowe more:

"Absolutely. I mean, I think it’s a good thing. He’s a guy that I think has earned that. I know he’s earned that from me. He’s that kind of player that when he is one-on-one, that certainly warrants me throwing that into a window that maybe I wouldn’t with some other guys. He’s that type of player."

So there’s that. And there’s this, what I came up with rewatching the Raiders game with an eye on Bowe every snap:

- He was only thrown at five times, making three catches for 46 yards and drawing a pass interference penalty.

- He whiffed pretty badly at least twice on run blocks.

- Again, I want to stress the part about not knowing assignments and such, but I counted at least seven snaps of what looked like single coverage without the ball going Bowe’s way.

- I also counted seven times where he was doubled or the Raiders shaded safety coverage to Bowe’s side.

- There were also times where the pass rush got to Smith too quickly to be sure what was happening, and other snaps that were clearly designed for other receivers.

- This is a "feel" kind of thing, because Bowe has never been a speed guy, or a physical freak like Larry Fitzgerald, but he just doesn’t look as explosive as years past. Calling him a step slow would be overstating the point, but maybe like 1/10th of a step slower than we’re used to seeing from him.

- Mostly, I think what you see is a combination of factors. Bowe isn’t getting a lot of separation, but then, his production has often been in making catches and plays without a lot of separation. There is also no question that Smith could throw the ball Bowe’s way more, particularly against single coverage, without much risk of an interception.

- This point should also be made clearly: the Chiefs offense, aside from turning Jamaal Charles into a Sherpa, is doing exactly what it should be doing. I had this stat in the other day’s column, and it’s astounding: opposing offenses have been 50 percent MORE likely to turn it over than to manage even a field goal, regardless of field position. This is otherworld type of stuff, and if the defense is playing like that, you could just punt on first down and win some games. So the Chiefs are absolutely right to play it conservative.

- But they’re going to need Dwayne Bowe.

Anyway, some leftover observations about the defense I didn’t get to in Monday’s rewatch:

- I swear, I think there was a play where Poe got blocked by one guy. But more on him and his remarkable journey in Sunday’s column.

- One of Tamba’s sacks in the third quarter came after Derrick Johnson closed a passing lane by leaping in front of Terrelle Pryor, forcing him to eat the ball and take the sack.

- The difference in this defense from last year is just preposterous. Like, it would make sense if they came out and said "we were playing with ankle weights on last year."

- Terrelle Pryor ran a 4.38 at the combine. He weighs 233 pounds and plays quarterback. And Tyson Jackson made a side-to-side play on him in the second quarter that guys his size don’t often make.

- The Raiders called a play where the tailback was supposed to throw back across the field to Pryor, but the Chiefs read it beautifully, most notably with Hali closing the passing lane.

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