The quest for a second weapon at wide receiver was advanced in the Chiefs’ second preseason game. Chris Conley was that sharp.
Conley, the second-year pro from Georgia, hauled in three passes for a team-best 66 yards, including a 37-yarder over the top from quarterback Alex Smith on the second touchdown drive in the 21-20 loss to the Rams on Saturday in Los Angeles.
The play may have been the game’s top offensive moment for the Chiefs. They faced third and 2 from their 33. Time for the standard smash mouth or at least a short, safe route from to a running back or tight end. Nope.
“We got to the line and Alex made an audible real quick, and we were able to hook up on it,” Conley said.
Conley wasn’t open when the ball left Smith’s hand. Conley made a move to get an edge on cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, and Smith dropped it in perfectly.
The play led to the Chiefs’ second touchdown, a 20-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs’ top threat at wide receiver.
With two big plays in the passing game on the drive, the Chiefs’ offense operated at its highest level. And Conley was a major part of the sequence.
He nearly got in the end zone on the first possession, as his 11-yard reception took him to the 2-yard line, where Spencer Ware bulled in for the game’s first touchdown.
“He did a bunch of stuff,” Smith said. “Even when I was out, he was moving around, knew all the situations.”
The first-team offense has been stout through two preseason games. Five possessions with Smith at quarterback have produced three touchdowns and a field goal.
Conley wasn’t targeted the previous week, but he’s made progress in a bolstered wide receiver corps through training camp. The Chiefs acquired veteran Rod Streater and drafted speedster Tyree Hill. But the club anticipates more production from Conley.
He’s coming off a rookie season in which his 17 receptions ranked third among wide receivers and sixth on the team. He grabbed one touchdown in the regular season and one against the Texans in the playoffs.
The numbers weren’t eye-opening but Conley showed promise and more production seemed inevitable for the athletic 6-3, 205-pounder. The performance on Saturday was a good sign.
“I think this year’s a big difference,” Conley said. “The longer that you spend in the offense, the more times to get reps on the field, it makes a huge difference.”
Conley is getting those reps with Smith and Nick Foles, the backup with 35 NFL career starts.
It’s said often about quarterbacks but the same is true at every position: the game slows down with experience and it has for Conley.
“When you can go out on the field and hear a play call and not have to think about what route you’re running, you can go out there and scan the defense and think about winning one-on-one matchups, think about finding the hole in zone,” Conley said. “That’s what this year is about for me.”