KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The day tight end Kevin Boss signed as a free agent with the Chiefs last March, he received a call from quarterback Matt Cassel.
Cassel welcomed Boss to Kansas City, showed him a house to move into in his neighborhood, introduced him to the neighbors and began passing him the football.
Cassel and Boss made an instant connection on and off the field. They worked tirelessly together during the spring and summer, and it was evident in last weekend’s preseason game in St. Louis. Cassel targeted Boss five times and he caught a game-high four passes for 62 yards, all in the first half.
“It’s always nice to live near your quarterback and become buddies with him,” Boss said with a smile.
Boss, who was released after just one year in Oakland, figures to play a key role in new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s tight end-friendly offense.
In each of the first two preseason games, a tight end has been the Chiefs’ leading receiver. Backup Steve Maneri emerged with three catches for 69 yards against Arizona before Boss’ big night against the Rams.
The Chiefs’ starting tight end, Tony Moeaki, who is coming back from knee surgery, caught a short pass for one yard on the first offensive play at St. Louis, and third-teamer Jake O’Connell pulled down a 19-yard grab at St. Louis.
“It’s still early, but the sky is the limit with this position,” Boss said. “We’re really deep, with me and Tony getting on the field at the same together. Maneri has really improved, and Jake O’Connell is an excellent guy who can do a little bit of everything and made a big catch in last game. It’s exciting to be a part of this position in this offense.”
A year ago, the New England Patriots showed what a pair of tight ends can mean to an offense, when Rob Gronkowski caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards, including 17 touchdowns (an NFL-record for a tight end) and Aaron Hernandez caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns.
Daboll was a receivers coach at New England from 2000-06, and he leaned heavily on tight ends as a coordinator at Cleveland and Miami.
“We have flexibility with the position with Boss being a big body; he’s got good hands, he’s got experience, he’s been on a couple of different teams, and he brings a little bit to the table for us,” said head coach Romeo Crennel.
“Tony has a little bit different than Kevin does, and our ability to use him will be helpful. Maneri has come on and has made some plays … Jake has made plays, and even (Kansas rookie) Tim Biere has gotten better during training camp.”
Boss, who stands 6-foot-6, caught 28 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns last year at Oakland, which had a revolving door at quarterback. It was his Boss’ fewest receptions since his rookie year with the New York Jets in 2007, but he was still surprised when the Raiders released him.
“I got caught off-guard a little bit,” he said. “I knew once they brought in the new general manager and cleaned out the whole coaching staff, I knew anything was possible, especially in this business. But I landed in my feet and I’m happy where I’m at.
Before Boss signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Raiders, he spent four years with the Giants, starting in 2007. Boss’ best year was 2009, when he caught 42 passes for 567 yards and five touchdowns. But his most memorable play occurred in Super Bowl XLII, when his game-long, 45-yard reception set up a touchdown in the Giants’ upset of then-undefeated New England.
“I had four great years in New York,” Boss said. “I loved my time there. In this business, you’re always moving. I can’t complain about my career at all. It’s been pretty amazing, coming from a small Division II school … that I made it this long.”
Boss not only played football at Western Oregon, he spent two seasons on the school’s basketball team, averaging 3.0 points in 13.6 minutes per game for 53 games.
“I really enjoyed being able to play both sports there,” he said. “It’s probably something I wouldn’t have been able to do at a Division I school, but at Western Oregon, I was able to and loved every minute of it.”
Boss, like other basketball-playing tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, uses his basketball skills in gaining position on defenders and going up for high passes.
“He’s a big target,” said Cassel. “He found the soft spot in the zone (at St. Louis) and he was able to get his big body in there, and I was able to see him. So it worked out well.”