2009 Breakout Player Of The Year: Dwayne Bowe
I know what you are thinking: "Can he really be considered a 'breakout candidate' if he's averaged over 75 catches and 1,000 yards his first two seasons?"
Up until this point in his career, he has just been considered "good." This year, however, he has the chance to join the "elite" category of NFL wide receivers. There are several reasons that can lead us to this conclusion, the first of which is the widely known fact that wide receivers generally reach their peak during their third season.
The biggest change personnel-wise for the Chiefs this offseason, other than trading away future HOF tight end Tony Gonzalez, was the addition of star quarterback Matt Cassel from the Patriots. The inclusion of Cassel into the Chiefs offense will benefit Bowe greatly.
Not only will the Chiefs have a stable quarterback for an entire year (something that has yet to happen during Bow's short career), but he will finally have a legitimate NFL-caliber QB sitting back in the pocket throwing him balls.
Cassel, while still without a great deep-ball, has the ability to hit Bowe on deep-post and fly patterns much more accurately than any other quarterback on the roster. Where Cassel really flourishes though, is in the short-to-intermediate passing game. Coincidentally, this is where Bowe works best also, and the increased accuracy and ball placement on these throws means No. 82 will have greater opportunities for yards after catch.
The Chiefs defense was among the league's worst last year, and for the majority of the season, looked like a college scout team out there trying to stop the opposing offense. The Chiefs were actually in most of the games last year, and lost them in the second half.
This dreadful defense will keep the Chiefs throwing early and often to keep them in games, and should average around 35 passes per game. I would assume that somewhere between a quarter and a third of these passes will make their way toward DBowe, which will put him on pace for somewhere around 11 targets per game, up from his 9.8 from last year.
Bowe had 157 total targets in 2008 (according to STATS, inc.), which put him at third in the league. Tony Gonzalez finished with 155 targets, good for fourth in the NFL, and these targets have to go somewhere. Bowe figures to get some of them, should be thrown to at least 165 times, maybe upwards of 170, and should turn those into between 100 and 110 catches.
This is of course assuming he gets rid of the case of The-Drops he had last year, but either way his numbers will go up. Bowe ended the 2008 season with 13 drops and at his yards per catch at 11.9 last year that would have given him over 150 extra yards had he quashed the stone-hands.
The most underrated change that is happening with Bowe this offseason, is the fact that new head coach Todd Haley mandated he drop weight, just like star wideout Larry Fitzgerald was told last season.
Bowe had been playing around 228, and Haley told him at the beginning of mini camp he needed to drop a "significant amount of weight." As of August 2, Bowe was down to a svelte playing weight of 210 pounds. "I just feel better," he said. "I feel like I can run faster and jump higher."
This is a very good sign for Bowe, who has not played at 210 since high school. Bowe worked out with Larry Fitzgerald this offseason, who had to drop from 229 to 213 pounds last year. That dropped weight helped Fitzgerald have his statistically best year as a pro, and rack up 96 catches for 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns.
John Lott, the Arizona strength and conditioning coach, said because of the lost weight Fitzgerald, "gained a step in speed, increased his vertical jump and combined improved fitness with breakthrough toughness that has resulted in him fighting and gaining more yards after the catch."
So what can we expect from Dwayne Bowe this year? Well, his stat line should look something like this:
Catches—105 Yards—1250 Touchdowns—10
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