Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe hauled in five receptions for 62 yards against a stout Carolina Panthers defense in the first half of Sunday evening's preseason game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Bowe is suspended for the first game of the 2014 NFL regular season, but that won't stop him from being a hot fantasy commodity as a legitimate No. 2 wideout option. Given the lack of playmakers in the Chiefs' passing attack, there is a real chance Bowe emerges as a No. 1-caliber fantasy player by season's end.
Donnie Avery is a speedy, experienced receiver who can stretch the field and be a threat after the catch. However, the next two players on the depth chart are 2012 seventh-round pick Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins, who appears to be a first-round bust (h/t KCChiefs.com).
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller alluded to the Chiefs' thin receiving corps in the wake of Bowe's suspension:
#Chiefs No. 1 WR without Dwayne Bowe for Week 1 will be Donnie Avery. Yikes.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 15, 2014
Bowe's performance on Sunday appears all the more impressive in light of what coach Andy Reid said Thursday about a nagging finger injury his top receiver has been dealing with.
"His finger is shot," said Reid, per ESPN.com's Adam Teicher. "It's been thrown out of place about 15 times, and he's not catching the ball. But he's getting his work done. You can practice with that type of thing."
Stephania Bell of ESPN weighed in on Bowe's performance:
WR Dwayne Bowe looked strong tonight (5 catches/62 yards). No sign of the finger-related dropsies Andy Reid mentioned.— Stephania Bell (@Stephania_ESPN) August 18, 2014
Indeed, Bowe was catching everything in sight on Sunday, suggesting he is on his way to make amends for his slip-up off the field that cost him the right to play the regular-season opener.
The 2014 campaign will be the second year that Kansas City is operating in Reid's West Coast offense. Quarterback Alex Smith's best skills are making quick, smart decisions, which translate well to the system.
The increased familiarity with Reid's scheme, in addition to better chemistry with Smith, will allow Bowe to emulate the Pro Bowl level he did in 2010, when he caught 15 touchdowns. Expecting that many trips to paydirt may be unrealistic due to the presence of superstar Jamaal Charles in the backfield, but Bowe is undoubtedly the go-to target.
In the red zone, if defenses load the box to stuff Charles, Smith can hit Bowe with back-shoulder throws or quick slants. Bowe can use his leverage, ball skills and frame to make life tough for the cornerbacks opposite him in those matchup scenarios.
Reid has a penchant for relying heavily on the pass, no matter how good his running game is. Smith snapped off 22 throws in the first half versus Carolina, so if that trend continues, and Bowe remains healthy, he should have little trouble eclipsing 1,000 yards in 2014.