KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Desperate to find some speed for their feeble offense, the Chiefs turned to a most unlikely source for wide-receiving help before last week’s game against the Denver Broncos.
Bypassing veteran Steve Breaston and fourth-round draft pick Devon Wylie, they turned to Jamar Newsome, who was freshly promoted from the practice squad.
The extent of Newsome’s NFL experience to that point: two games with Jacksonville last season.
It’s come to that for the Chiefs and their passing game. At wide receiver, at least, their choices this season have often been unappetizing: a usually well-covered Dwayne Bowe, a short pass to Dexter McCluster, or the underachieving Jon Baldwin.
It’s little mystery why the Chiefs are last in the league in scoring.
So the Chiefs took a chance with Newsome, a fast receiver who brought some speed to an otherwise plodding position group.
“I don’t think you can say that’s been the only deficiency,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “But that’s one of the things that we deal with — trying to get more speed on the field — because teams have been kind of pressing us a little bit. When you press, (receivers) aren’t open right away, and so now the quarterback has to hold the ball and the line has to protect longer. If you have some speed on the field, you have a chance to beat the press and get guys off you a little bit.”
Newsome didn’t make much of an impact, catching one pass for 10 yards against Denver. But he could be involved again Sunday when the Chiefs play against Carolina at Arrowhead Stadium.
Wylie might be, too. McCluster, who showed symptoms of a concussion after the Broncos game, didn’t practice Wednesday, though Crennel said he has been cleared by doctors to play.
The Chiefs have nothing to lose by going with youth at wide receiver. They thought the position would be one of strength going into the season.
Instead, it has been inhabited by some of their biggest underachievers. McCluster’s longest catch this season is 26 yards. Breaston, after catching 61 passes last year, has seven receptions this season. Wylie hasn’t caught any passes.
But none of the Chiefs’ receivers are falling short of expectations like Baldwin, who was the star of offseason and training camp practices but has just 16 catches and no touchdowns through 11 games.
“As a receiver, you always want to make plays,” Baldwin said. “All I can do right now is keep working and just be ready when the opportunity presents itself.
“Receiver is a position where you know you’re not going to get the ball every play. It comes in flurries. All you can do at practice is keep preparing the same way, so when you do get the opportunity, you’re not stunned. You’re already prepared.”
Crennel wouldn’t go near a question about whether Baldwin was this season’s biggest disappointment.
“Everybody takes a role in this offense, and the offense as a whole hasn’t been as good as we want it to be, or need it to be, to win games,” Crennel said. “And this team hasn’t been as good as we want it to be, or need it to be, to win games. I’m not putting it on one guy. He’s going to be out there, and if the ball comes, we expect him to make the play. I cannot guarantee the ball is going to him. What I’ve found out is that if you make the play, the ball will go to you more.
“He hasn’t gotten as many opportunities, and if you look at Jon, he tried during the course of the game. He was open on one play, but Brady (Quinn) went the other way. If he would have gone to Jon, it might have been a touchdown. As coverages develop, as things develop in the game, the quarterback goes from one side to the other side and they just haven’t been going to him as much.”
The Chiefs started the season getting some big passing plays. They had 10 pass plays of 20 yards or longer in their first two games.
But they’ve had just 17 such plays over the last nine games. Last week, Denver had five of them and the Chiefs just one, a 21-yard catch and run by tight end Tony Moeaki.
That’s the only play of 20-plus yard in Quinn’s two starts at quarterback.
“They’re doing a good job getting open and doing their assignments,” Quinn said, taking blame for the problem. “It’s up to me as a quarterback to give them a good ball.”
As long as the other receivers are struggling to catch passes for significant yardage, the Chiefs will look for help in players like Newsome. He was signed to their practice squad late last season, went to camp with the Chiefs this year and spent the first 11 weeks of this season on the practice squad again.
“I’ve been practicing with the offense for a while even though I was on the practice squad,” Newsome said. “I’ve been practicing and the coaches know I have a lot of talent and I’m a smart player. I think they realized that maybe it was time to allow me the chance to do something.”